Chit Chat: Andile Bhenya

2011-04-01 13:27

Andile Bhenya (27) from Leondale, east of Joburg, is a star to watch in the fashion industry. Bhenya has served as David Tlale’s right-hand man and was recently appointed wardrobe master at soapie Rhythm City. He talks to Lesley Mofokeng.

Take me through the process of bringing a costume to life – from the sketchbook to appearing
on TV.

Firstly, each character has a different role and look. Design starts by examining the character’s story line and their future within the soapie. Factors such as emotions, actions and environment play a key role when designing for the cast, thus one has to bear that in mind when drawing and designing.

What exactly does a wardrobe master do?
I work with a brilliant team. We conceptualise looks – present and future – for each character. I ­design and make the costumes for the characters according to the ­storyline. The writers conceptualise the character and I conceptualise how they should look.

How is designing clothes for a TV show different f
rom designing clothes commercially?

Designing for a soapie gives all I do an individual feel. You know ­exactly who is going to wear what and for how long. It also allows one to play more without thinking about your target audience not wearing it because you got it wrong, which is what happens with designing commercially.

One has to factor in different characters within one garment when designing for the commercial market.

What’s the most important lesson you learnt from working with David Tlale?

I learned so much while working with DT that I could not have learned anywhere else. Two key lessons were technique and freedom of expression.

They made me who I am today. The ­experience catapulted me into the individual I am trying to build at the moment.

What inspired the Lucilla ­wedding gown, and how long did it take you to put it together?

Firstly, it’s not the first time she got married, so we decided not to go for your typical white. Baby-pink was our best colour. We wanted her to be herself, be glamorous and elegant, with a touch of class and presence. It took two weeks to a month to make it.

What are some of the trendy looks we can expect from the Rhythm City wardrobe?
Colours and prints, depending on the character and their role in the soapie. So, current trends with a mix of kasi flavour is what the Rhythm City team is working on.

How important is your job in this big Rhythm City production ­machine?

I hope my role is an important one (laughs) but, seriously, every member of this team is important and that’s how we create a great product. We all work together and no one’s job is better than the ­other’s, unless they are signing
the cheque.

How do you keep your wardrobe updated?
Always mixing and matching the new with the old. My team is ­always on top of their game. It’s important to know what is ­happening in the fashion industry.

Who do you like dressing the most in Rhythm City?
I can’t really pick one person, ­because they are all different ­characters with different backgrounds, but I enjoy working with all the ladies. I can be more ­creative and out there.

I get to work with different people and that’s always exciting.

How do you describe your style and look for the cast?

It depends on the character. It’s elegant and classy for some, and street and über-cool for others.

Was it an easy climb for you on the industry ladder?
I have been truly blessed. It was really not that hard for me to get into the industry. I got employed by one of the best clothing brands in South Africa immediately after my studies at Cape Tech and I have been designing from 2005 ­until now, and enjoying it.

Do you ever think of opening your own boutique? What are your future plans?
Well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise I have for South Africa and the whole world. Like they say, watch this space and keep your ears to the ground.

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