David Tlale has taken his brand to places most designers can only day-dream about. His designs speak of style, elegance and you can tell there is a lot of effort, passion and creativity put into his creations. With over a decade of excellence there is no doubt that his is a call of passion.
Who’s David Tlale, where are you from and what’s your family life like?
I was born and bred in Vosloorus, brought up by a single mother and I have three siblings, 2 elder sisters and a younger brother. I got nieces and nephews, I am a God-fearing man, I believe in the power of God and the power of the universe. Because I believe my journey and where I am at is purely by the hand of God upon my life,I believe in simple principles: Discipline, Focus and Love.
Where do you find your inspiration, what defines your work ethic?
My inspiration comes from life, ups and downs. My happy moments, my sad moments and when I’m in love. I draw inspiration from even the worst dressed person and the best dressed person, I believe life has so much to give, so there’s never a guideline to say this is where I get inspired. I mean I’m an artist, inspiration just comes from nowhere that’s how we get to evolve as a brand.
I believe it’s been over 15 years since you launched your brand, right? so which can you say has been your memorable showcase?
The one that stands out beyond anything? ha-ha well I know people might say New York or whatever but the one that’s stands out for me was the Nelson Mandela Bridge showcase. Nothing can compare to that show cos it was the longest runway, it had most models so that for me stands out .
How did you decide to take the fashion route? I mean you could have chosen to be an accountant or a lawyer. So why this career?
I think there was a bigger drive beyond just me sacrificing my 21st party, it’s one thing we call intuition of knowing that your called for a bigger course. I don’t do this because is my job, I do this because it’s a calling, because it’s my life. I knew that there’s a bigger course to life than being just an accountant or a family man.
This is why I say; Today people find it it hard to differentiate between David Tlale the person and David Tlale the brand because they are both intertwined.
There’s never a stopping point to say, I’m not working, I’m out partying. People don’t see that, people see the brand that is partying, they don’t see the human that I am. So, that is the biggest sacrifice because I could have easily traded with a different name, but over and above that; I said to myself I’m going to put my name on the block, either people love or hate me this is who I am and this is what I do and this is what I’m going to serve you! And did I ever think I’m going to be this person? No, I didn’t know but I knew there was something greater because I prayed about this before I went to fashion school, I knew I had God’s affirmation.
The first lady of Nigeria presented you with an award ” The African Icon of Hope Award” please can you describe that moment for us
I think that was really amazing, I receive awards and I appreciate them, these are items of recognition. Having to associate with first ladies of different countries, I think it’s really just a sign of affirmation that we are doing something right and it’s really humbling to see people recognizing the brand beyond the borders of Johannesburg. I’ve received awards in Nigeria, Uganda, Namibia … you name it. So is pleasing to know the world is paying attention to what we doing as a brand.
The BET award, two words to describe it
NERVE WRECKING – BUT AMAZING! – That’s it . . . I can’t go beyond 😊
What is your creative process when you preparing a collection?
When I prepare for a collection is neither here or there, it’s an organic process and we allow ourselves as a brand to go through and experience it. So is neither the fabric or the print it’s just about how I feel.
What’s the difference between SA Fashion Week and NY Fashion Week? I mean you have done both.
Business of fashion in London, Paris or New York is on another level, its actually the core business of fashion where you have buyers. The media and people who really run the industry. In South Africa, we are not trying, we are doing it but on a very small scale and slowly.
The country and the continent is starting to appreciate it, and we starting to do the business of fashion.
People are starting to support local designers, we see local brands available in retail stores. So I can say we are getting there. What we have here is special, the world does not have it and we understand how madness operates and we also understand how our businesses operate.
Take examples of some young designers in Paris or New York, when they get here they get blown away. And my take is …. where we are right now as a continent, we have to focus on what we have, excel in it, perfect it and sell it to the world.
By the time, we go out there, Europe or America we got to serve them what we make in Africa. It’s not my vision to compete with Dolce & Gabbana or Armani, they are doing them and we are coming with a new story.
Our heritage is different, our upbringing is different and all they want is this “Difference” because as soon as we start diluting our story it gets lost in translation, so the only thing is to serve Africa to the world as raw as it is.
How was it like having Tyson Beckford model for David Tlale?
It was a beautiful experience for me, and also just to add on and say we position ourselves as a global brand, another great thing is how he appreciates our products, he has modeled for big global brands and here he was proudly wearing David Tlale. He appreciated the fact that it was made in Africa, in South Africa and that was just amazing.
David you have traveled the world and met some of the most influential people, so can you please just do some name dropping. Who have you wined and dined with?
I’ve worked with the likes Tyson Beckford, Chanel Iman, Yolanda Adams, I’ve dressed Kelly Rowland and the list goes on .
What’s your favorite fabric to work on?
I like different textures, I like working with leather and lace, so it varies depending on where the head space is at that time.
Ooh, That’s a deadly combination.
It’s simple honey, we do this for a living. 😊
Have you ever dealt with an unhappy client?
We do have those moments from time to time, I mean whether we want to or not. We got to understand that we are in the service delivery industry and service is all about customer care and making sure we keep them happy. Its all about taking it one day at the time and understanding you can never satisfy everybody, but there is more people who are happy with our work than the ones who are not.
That’s just how it goes!
What’s your best seller and how much have you sold in your best collection?
Best seller is relative, best seller for me is when a customer comes back for more. Immediately when a customer picks up a phone and call us for more, I know we have nailed it.
Who would you say is your dream body to dress?
Dream body to dress is anyone who can afford David Tlale . . . .
What can you say about supporting local brands?
Let’s support local brands and let’s get rid of this mentality that someone must go and showcase in New York or London first for you to start appreciating them.
It’s very important to realize what we have around us. It’s shocking how Mam’ Esther Mahlangu has been around for so many years and only now people are starting to pay attention, just because her Ndebele designs have been showcased in London and Paris.
Let’s appreciate what we have here and work on excelling it.