David Tlale an icon in New York

2014-02-16 10:00

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On Thursday night, US TV channel BET broadcast a 30-minute interview with David Tlale as part of its coverage of African icons in February.

This cemented Tlale’s New York takeover after his acclaimed debut runway solo this week at the prestigious ­Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week.

Tlale could not contain his excitement.

He said on the phone on Thursday: “It was absolutely phenomenal. I sat in the recording studio for an hour and they edited it down to 30 minutes. It was a Q&A style plus images of the show. It profiled me as a person and my brand.

“It was interesting when they started ­referencing my showcase in Joburg on the Nelson Mandela Bridge and other iconic showcases we have done in South Africa.”

It has been a triumphant return to New York for Tlale?–?last season he was embroiled in a spat with a New York public relations firm over unpaid bills.

This season he is on the books of a new firm, Collective Communication, which he says will position his label in the US after Fashion Week and in time for decision­makers like Vogue’s Anna Wintour and ­André Leon Talley to attend his shows.

Tlale says that last year’s drama is history.

“I believe things happen in seasons in life. I closed that chapter. We are now focusing on how we position David Tlale moving forward. What happened last year was like a training session at gym, we have trained and we became better people and moved on.”

Tlale, South Africa’s unofficial fashion ambassador, believes the world is his for the taking. He also ­appears to believe his own PR.

“When I started showcasing at Paris Fashion Week I stopped seeing David Tlale as just a designer from Joburg.

“I started seeing the brand through the eyes of the world. In 2009, when I came to New York Fashion Week for the first time, it became clear this was the journey for me. In 2012, we started showing on schedule and the brand took a 360° turn to become global.

“Once you are accepted for Fashion Week, you are already operating at that level. You may not be on the same level as Marc Jacobs or Calvin Klein, but we are at the beginning of building this global brand because I am a brand made in Joburg and pride myself that I live and work in South Africa and supply my product to the ­global platform.”

Tlale has grown to love New York. He enjoys the bustle of Manhattan and its ­competitive spirit.

“I feel comfortable and strong in New York because everyone comes here to hustle and make it big. We are here to build something out of nothing. I was passionate about that. Looking back on my past four seasons has made it evident this is a place for me to grow and establish the brand and live the South African dream.

“It’s a gradual growth to the next level. Having been on schedule for the last four seasons continuously takes us to the next level?–?the brand is consistent and people in the US and globally will take Tlale seriously.

“I must say it humbles us that we have come such a long way. This is only phase one to sell the brand globally and ensure that we are profitable. I started my journey in 2003 when I won the Elle New Talent but this is the beginning of the bigger dream.”

Tlale showed at the Lincoln Centre’s Pavilion which boasted an audience including Fern Mallis, founder of New York Fashion Week, designer Luca Luca, celebrity stylists and leading fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Elle US and Women’s Wear Daily.

There was international media from as far afield as Nigeria, Dubai, Japan, France and the UK.

“For the first runway show, I was excited to see a room filled with so many fashion people from the US,” he says.

Tlale is spending more time in the US ­“lobbying buyers, showrooms, agencies” to get a bigger profile for his brand in the ­lucrative New York market while carving out a strategy with his PR company.

Back in South Africa he will stage a show at the Design Indaba in collaboration with Vlisco next month.

He is also billed to display in Portugal ­before Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Joburg to launch his internship programme and showcase collections by his four interns from KwaZulu-Natal.

Then it’s back to New York for Africa ­Fashion Week’s Spring/Summer collection.

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