David Tlale: HOW TO HUSTLE YOUR WAY TO THE TOP
Groundbreaking fashion designer and businessman David Tlale will once again be showcasing his latest collection at New York Fashion Week on 15 February. He takes us on his 12-year journey in the fashion business.
It’s a South African fashion brand that exudes such luxury that it has positioned itself on the international stage, sharing the ramp with the likes of global fashion icons Dior and Oscar de la Renta. It is the David Tlale brand. David Tlale is a prudent businessman. Twelve years ago he quit his job as a part-time fashion lecturer at the Vaal University of Technology and went into the luxury fashion business.
Today, he is fast growing a following in the international fashion space. On 15 February he is exhibiting his sixth solo showcasing at the prestigious New York Fashion Week. This is an exercise that costs his company just over R1m per season.
Taking a fashion brand from SA to the catwalks of New York is not easy, says Tlale.
“It’s the toughest thing to do every season. Every year we need just over R2m to showcase two seasons,” he says. “The fashion industry is a very expensive industry. It’s not a trial-and-error business, and once you put yourself on an international stage, people don’t care that you come from South Africa, they don’t care that you’re trading in rands. They understand the power of being an international brand because the return on investment is greater.”
Granted, luxury brands come at a high cost to high-end customers. But it takes much more money to showcase on the international stage against iconic brands. So, where did Tlale get the funding, especially in the initial stages? Government agencies were able to lend a hand where they could, says Tlale. “One season we were supported by Brand South Africa. And the National Empowerment Fund in the first season. Everything else
“Once yo u put yo urself on an international stage, people don’t care that yo u come from South Africa, they don ’t care that yo u’re trading in rands.”