Davyn de Bruyn had it all: a wonderful job, speeding up the career ladder, living in Mosman, girls keen for his company… but on the 10th of January in 2012 he found himself asking ‘Is this all life has to offer?’ There was a massive emptiness inside which he could not ignore. At 10.05pm he wrote in a journal, “Dear Jesus, my life is yours, I am your servant. Do with me as you please”
Shortly after he had a strong desire to start a new business, a clothing label. Although his mother was a seamstress, he had no experience in the fashion industry, and now no job to resource the vision. However, he did have a name for the new label: Black on Black. He resigned from his job a few months later and the journey began.
Over the next couple of weeks God sent people who started him on a track of thinking about the ‘why’ of his life. He came to realise that his purpose was to be part of developing and building the kingdom that Jesus spoke about, on earth.
Davyn started to ask himself: ‘What would it look like if God was reigning right here, right now, and how can I discover and fulfil that?’
An important verse was Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Almost straight away Davyn experienced more meaning, purpose and joy than before. “I had never felt so alive,” he says.
Davyn secured a financial partner and launched his Black on Black label… and failed horribly. “I did not get one sale,” he explains. “Not even from a member of my own family.”
It was a shocking and very humbling time. With escalating debts Davyn took a job as a door-to-door salesperson. “I always believe that God places you in certain contexts for two reasons: to learn something, and to reach people.”
In the beginning, Davyn struggled. “It was all selling by commission and one day I finished $120 behind: I had a parking fine and an expensive lunch!”
Davyn was going through a process of God rebuilding him. “I had not waited on God’s timing. I had charged off in my own strength. Now I felt God wanted to start by re-forming me, and bringing together a team.”
Through the door-to-door selling job Davyn learnt humility, trust, how to praise God in all circumstances, and how to sense God’s Spirit. He also learnt a lot about human behaviour and how to sell a product.
Even though this was a low point in his journey, Davyn still felt more alive than he had in his corporate job.
God brought team members to Davyn: Henry, with operations experience and also excellent at procurement, negotiations and finance; Ben, an information technology genius; Neridah with a gifting in marketing and organisational ability; Cynthia, Davyn’s original financial backer stuck with him through the difficult times.
Davyn knew that he wanted to link fashion with empowerment, and that he wanted to reflect God’s heart for the broken, and it was at this point that he became involved in Seed’s accelerator program for entrepreneurs.
“As a team we were all over the place. Seed provided the program, tools and coaching, to help us to refine, articulate and build the business. We began to understand who we were and where we were going.”
“The critical moment came when we understood that Black on Black Revolution is not about what we do, but who we are.”
At one point during the course Davyn was explaining that their label would sell clothing and distribute some of the profits to fund a charity in South Africa rescuing abandoned children.
“Someone asked me: ‘where is the clothing coming from?’ ‘China.’ ‘Who is making it?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘What are their labour conditions like? ‘I don’t know.’
“Suddenly it hit us that the biggest way we can empower people is how we source clothing, and who we source from.”
Since then, Daniel and Beth have joined the team, specialising in not for profit and social justice strategies and sourcing ethical fashion.
From July, Black on Black Revolution has been operating, having bought Thread Harvest (an online retailer for ethical clothing labels). “Brands are getting in touch with us, interested in what we are doing,” enthuses Davyn.
“We are hoping that people will learn that purpose impacts everything, even what you buy and why.
“Who would have thought that Christians could operate and succeed in the fashion space? To those in difficult industries I say, ‘Don’t be so scared about being affected by your surroundings, and start positively effecting your surroundings.’