David Tlale seeks to nurture Namibian fashion
Anyone who follows David Tlale on social media will know that the fashion designer is one of South Africa’s biggest style connoisseurs.
When I met David at the wonderful Stellenbosch restaurant, he was dressed in an all–black ensemble, Tom Ford sunglasses, patent leather loafers with a purple embroidery, and looked every bit of the style adonis that he is known to be.
The renowned designer was in the country last week to launch his fashion focus programme called David Tlale’s the Intern, which is facilitated with the help of the First Lady Monica Geingos.
The programme, which started in 2013, is a personal effort to engage emerging designers through an in-house internship at the David Tlale atelier.
The programme focuses on skills transfer and (finishing school) for post-graduate fashion design students, who are looking to improve their skills, and finished products to be ready for the market place locally and internationally.
The programme offers 16 young designers the opportunity to put on a fashion show at the annual showcase in which a winner will be chosen.
The interns will go through challenges to determine who will showcase at Jo’burg Fashion Week in August next year, Durban Fashion Fair and Lagos Design Week.
The designer who emerges as ‘the intern’ will have a one-year stint as Tlale’s assistant designer. The winner will also be assisted in setting up a studio with machinery and computers.
In order to enter for the internship programme, one must be a designer that has studied fashion at tertiary level. They must also be able to make clothes and understand the language of fashion, and be a designer who wants to take their brand to the next level.
“There will be a link where the entry form can be downloaded and people will have a month to enter for the competition and send through their storyboards, resumes and some of the collections that they have done,” Tlale said.
“I approached the first lady to ask her if we could do the internship programme in Namibia, being a humanitarian that she is, she said this is a good one because this is going to impart skill and change peoples’ lives.
“We have space for three interns, but only one will be sponsored. The other two spaces are for interns who are willing to pay for themselves, this means they will have to pay for their own accommodation, transport and food. They will learn how to build themselves as brands and how to build a cohesive collection. They will get exposure on national platforms like Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Jo’burg, Cape Town, and some other shows on the continent.”
The designer, who is known for bringing a touch of drama to both his designs and his runway shows, also spoke about his clothing range.
“Our brand is dissected in multiple classes. We have the high end, which is couture, the high end ready to wear, and we also have the diffusion line.
“We dress anyone who wants to look good. The couture obviously grabs more attention and is made to order and the high end ready to wear, which we sell to high end stores in South Africa and the diffusion, which is David by David Tlale, whose price points are much more reasonable.
“This line is available on Spree, Edgars Zimbabwe as well as in our Diffusion line store in Johannesburg. People often ask me what is reasonable, reasonable is the lowest price point being N$399 and the most expensive N$3, 800,” he said.
Tlale’s clientele includes the crème de la crème of the South African entertainment industry, including Top Billing presenters Jeannie D and Bonang Matheba, as well as South African Idols judge Somizi Mhlongo.
Last year, Tlale was among 20 designers who were chosen to showcase their work at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards Experience, an opportunity which saw him dressing American Pop singer, Beyonce’s mother, Tina Knowles.
Speaking on how he works with his clients, the Vosloorus born designer said that if he has to dress a celebrity they have to fit in with his ethos.
He said that he doesn’t try to impress celebrities because designing for the celebrity is basically about them endorsing his brand.
“People have had a messed up mentality [about me] that because I want to be famous or I want to be seen, [I] start slapping my clothes on everybody. But, that is not the case; everything is not necessarily for everyone.
“If somebody does not believe in my brand and does not support my brand, there is no need for me to be slapping clothes on them just because they are famous,” he said.
“It is a two way relationship. You have to at least own a David Tlale piece or be seen having an interest in shopping at a David Tlale store or buy something, then I will be able to dress you because you are taking your lifestyle to the next level to say I can afford David Tlale and he always dresses me for the red carpet. I am not of the idea of saying that I will always dress you when you don’t [even] own a David Tlale piece; it doesn’t work like that,” he stressed.
Asked about what trends are making a comeback in the world of fashion, Tlale said that the bootylicious and African print trends are definitely making waves, showing that Africa is a force to be reckoned with.
He said, as Africans, we should be proud of what we have around us, appreciate it and not believe that anything that has passed our borders is always better than what we have right here, at home.
He further said that the world has accepted that being bootylicious is trendy and African women, who are mostly bootylicious, are wearing that trend well.
Tlale expressed his dislike for designers who steal people’s work, saying plagiarism of designs is disrespectful.
He revealed that he is currently working on a new collection called Labyrinth, which is a collaboration between the designer and a Johannesburg artist, Jean du Plessis.