The world is hungry for luxurious African goods and a distinctly African experience and fashion that carries a true narrative that is informed by Africa.
BNS: Tell us a little about your background
I was born and raised in Vosloorus in the East of Johannesburg, Gauteng. I grew up in a very close-knit family unit. My family was very loving and very spiritual as well and from a very young age Christianity took precedence in my life from participating in the choir to being a young leader in the church, I have always put God at the center of all that I do.
BNS: Firstly, how did you get your start in the fashion industry? How did you decide to start your own label?
I started my own label because I saw a gap in the market especially for high-end fashion that remained African but could still be imaginative and inspiring. My perspective and point of view has always been very artistic and individualistic. I wanted to see my unique creative expression come to life in clothing and this is how I started. On a small scale making garments in the backroom of my mother’s home and today having made garments for some of the most notable individuals in the world. For the longest time, I always had an interest in fashion. I ended up in a completely different career path yet I decided to start making clothes at some point and I haven’t looked back since.
My perspective and point of view has always been very artistic and individualistic.
BNS: Where do you see David Tlale going in five (or 10 or 50) years?
In the next 5 to 10 years, I see The House of David Tlale growing even further than where it is now with stores across the world. The world is hungry for luxurious African goods and a distinctly African experience and fashion that carries a true narrative that is informed by Africa. The journey of The Intern by David Tlale as well as #TlaleVosloorus2NewYork is also one that I pride myself in creating and opening the way for the future generations of African fashion.
BNS: What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in running a successful label?
Some of the biggest lessons that I have learnt are that it’s not easy especially in terms of global branding, sponsorship and the journey that we have undertaken as the David Tlale brand and consistently growing. There are challenges here and there however believing and trusting in the process is always key.
BNS: What’s the most significant “I’ve made it” moment to date?
I don’t ever want to feel like I’ve made it because with that kind of mentality it’s easy to become complacent and I take my craft very seriously. I cannot emphasise enough how much I love what I do. There have been defining moments in my life that have stood out, like all of the 8 times that I showcased in New York.
BNS: The silhouettes of David Tlale pieces are so modern and elegant. Do you have a specific woman in mind when you design?
What I always have in mind is a spectacular and I want an individual in David Tlale to feel empowered by fashion more than anything and to be inspired by their wardrobe. When one dresses well, there is a three hundred and sixty shift in other aspects of their life as well, which is important. Fashion can certainly be a catalyst for change and a means for success.
I don’t ever want to feel like I’ve made it because with that kind of mentality it’s easy to become complacent and I take my craft very seriously.
BNS: How did you know the brand was truly headed for success?
With time and consistency I started reaping the results and there are moments that I will never forget including showcasing in Paris as well as showcasing consecutively at the Lincoln Centre [in New York].
BNS: What was happening in fashion when you launched? What did you want to do differently?
The focus of African designers was very traditional and focused on ‘shweshe’. There were very few designers that were adventurous in the sense that a re-imagination was taking place but I will always be one to push the boundaries and I am happy that the brand continues to do so after all these years.
BNS: What has been one of your most memorable moments as a designer—a notable woman you’ve dressed or even a major setback that taught you something?
I have dressed many notable women from supermodels like Jourdan Dunn and Shanelle Nyasiase to heads of state alike. The biggest lessons that I had to wake up to was that making my dream come true would be more difficult than I had expected and attune myself to the fact that fashion is cut-throat business.
BNS: 2019 is slated to be a big year for the brand, with fragrance lines and possibly a standalone ready to wear store. What catalysed this big move to reach a larger portion of your fan base?
We are always growing and trying to find new ways to be innovative and to take it to the next level every single time as the House of David Tlale. The David Tlale brand is not just limited to fashion but has become a household brand that mirrors the ambitions of South Africans and Africans alike and I have been privileged with the vision to be able to take it further. With the new opportunity that arises it is important to take it further.
BNS: You’re an established designer, and with over a 180k followers on Instagram, you’re also an influencer in your own right. Does this impact your business?
Yes, social media plays an important role, as it is a platform that one can utilize to engage a large group of people that would not necessarily have access to the brand and myself. The possibilities are endless and there are many exciting ideas that are being shared on social media, which for me is the most beneficial part.
BNS: From Ciroc deals to your own reality TV show, you’ve done so much. Is there anything you’d change or do differently or better?
I wouldn’t do anything differently as I believe that everything happens for a reason. Some of the biggest challenges I have been able to overcome gracefully thanks to my faith.
BNS: Favourite part of working for yourself?
The best part about working for myself is that I get to employ and empower a number of individuals from different walks of life. It is not as secure as the general public would believe but it is equally rewarding.
BNS: Can you speak to a few summer trends you’re loving right now?
Some of the leading Summer trends are Summer sunglasses which are a staple in my bag as well as the petite bag which is exactly what the David Tlale x Vodacom bag is.
The best part about working for myself is that I get to employ and empower a number of individuals from different walks of life.
BNS: Any trends you’re hating? Why?
There are some trends out there that just don’t make sense. Wearing Lycra is still a no according to me. Elegance and class should always be prioritized no matter what the occasion at hand.
BNS: What is one trend we can always expect SA girls to wear during the summer?
The David Tlale White Blouse is always an essential summer piece.