New York bites Tlale

2013-09-08 14:00

Top SA designer caught in another payment debacle ahead of Big Apple show.

David Tlale was caught up in a public relations nightmare in New York this week when a top US PR firm ditched him because he hadn’t paid up.

Tlale, one of the country’s top fashion designers, showed a collection in New York to rave reviews from the city’s fashionistas.

But PR firm People’s Revolution, headed by US reality TV star Kelly Cutrone, issued a statement on the eve of Tlale’s show at the Box in Lincoln Center on Thursday saying they were pulling out and announcing their displeasure at not being paid.

“You don’t go to Air France and ask to fly for free to Paris saying you’ll pay them later,” shot Cutrone, owner of People’s Revolution.

The agreement between Cutrone and Tlale stipulated that half her fee be paid when they signed the contract and the remainder 48 hours before the show.

But by Thursday she had not received her $15?000 (R150?300).

“The only remaining service industry that gets paid after the service has been delivered is the restaurant business. Everyone else gets paid ahead,” Cutrone said. “It’s nothing personal. It is just business and this is how it is done.”

Speaking from New York, Tlale was unfazed and his show went on as usual.

“I’m actually fine and feel a great sense of relief now that the show is done. The drama just before it almost gave me a rash, but I knew that between me and my capable team, we would salvage the situation,” he said.

“People’s Revolution were only one aspect of a bigger team that was working on pulling off this show. And we did it. It’s unfortunate it came to this, but these things happen for a reason. God always has better plans for me.”

But the row has now moved closer to home, with Tlale’s design colleagues and debtors clicking their tongues.

World-renowned milliner Albertus Swanepoel, who lives in New York and collaborated with designers like Alexander Wang, Tommy Hilfiger and Carolina Herrera at New York Fashion Week on shared runways, said: “South Africa already has a fragile fashion image internationally and with an incident like this, it just pulls the country’s name through the mud.”

Cutrone said: “We had an agreement that was not honoured, even though I had secured everything from tickets to RSVPs to free shoes to personally helping with the styling.”

Speaking for Tlale in Joburg, his publicist Vista Kalipa said there was an agreement between Tlale and Cutrone that she would be fully paid 48 hours before the show.

One of Tlale’s sponsors is Brand SA and Kalipa said the money had not been cleared into Tlale’s account for him to settle the PR bill.

Kalipa said they saved the situation with his company On Point and its partners in New York, United Colors of Fashion and Brand SA staff in New York taking care of media RSVPs, the guest list and seating arrangements.

Kalipa said they hired Cutrone’s company because “you need a PR agency on the ground that understands the landscape and has great connections with the media and buyers. They would bring value to the brand. On the other side, it (the publicity) has brought attention to David Tlale,” said Kalipa.

The story made it to international TV networks such as E! Entertainment, Fox, Fashion One and WWD (Women’s Wear Daily).

He said it was unfair to paint Tlale as a bad payer.

“That is based on old stories and the financial difficulties David had, but since then the company has turned around and the finances are well-managed.

“We look forward to Africa Fashion Week in Joburg next month, where David has partnered with a big brand.”

Tlale was announced last week as an ambassador for Harley-Davidson and will be raising funds for the Southern Africa Trust and the Blue Train.

But one of Tlale’s local debtors, Eben Keun, who has still not been paid the R40?000 he is owed for work on Tlale’s 2010 Midnight Show, says he should have done the same thing as Cutrone.

“What I find particularly disturbing is Tlale’s show was sponsored by Brand SA. So our South African tax money is spent on parading bad business ethics on an international platform,” he fumed.

Lihle Z Mtshali, Brand SA’s US programme manager, said via email that Tlale’s rise from a humble background to one of the biggest names in African fashion was “the kind of success that embodies Brand SA’s mandate to build the country’s reputation in order to improve its global competitiveness abroad”.

“David represents the success of South Africa’s democracy and the successful showcase of his expertly Made-in-South Africa garments on an international stage is a great advertisement for the country’s fashion industry,” she said. “It was natural for us to assist this talented designer to make inroads in a difficult and often cut-throat market. Our PR and digital support started before David landed in the USA. It was not a last-minute scramble as has been suggested.”

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