Emperor of fashion David Tlale has been hard at work on a new collaborative range and expanding the reach of his brand, which has seen the shores of New York and will reach Ghana soon.
At House of David Tlale, in the Johannesburg CBD, his team is hard at work, diligently examining fabric and threading seams.
Tlale’s robust aura makes the large waiting area feel puny. Adjacent to the suede sofas and green Persian rug on the floor, his Style Awards grace a mantle above a mini bar fridge filled with his branded water.
The golden branding on the bottle matches the shimmer of the multiple awards.
Tlale takes a seat behind his desk on the all-too-iconic golden throne, looking like a monarch about to pass rulings down to his loyal subjects.
“The inspiration behind the collection is purely based on the Xibelani skirt, which is a Tsonga traditional skirt for celebrations,” says the 45-year-old from Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni.
Using this garment as his muse and drawing on the wispy design, playful tassels and striking colouring, but with a touch of modernity, this collaboration with cosmetic company Avon is aimed at giving more access to his brand with a collection of accessories and fragrance.
A one-of-a-kind David Tlale creation will set you back anywhere between R5 000 and R16 000 or more, but this range is affordable and designed to complement his other works, with prices ranging from R399 for a sling bag to R499 for a sleek wrist watch or chic swimwear.
“I’m just drawn to the craftsmanship of the skirt, and how many metres are used to make just one skirt and the beadwork that goes into it. I just thought it’s time that we celebrate what we stand for as Africans,” the chatty Tlale says.
These sentiments are sweeping the continent in a quasi-renaissance of creativity across all spheres of art, which Tlale is pleased to be contributing to.
With an air of slight resentment and relief, he says: “The world has not paid attention to us, yet we were still doing it.
“We were still rising. Fashion-wise, it’s been a long time coming. Look at how trends have always drawn inspiration from Africa,” he points out.
He cites Louis Vuitton stealing the Basotho blanket design in 2017 and John Galliano’s appropriation of the Maasai culture. He appeared to be visibly bothered by these instances, but he’s determined to drive the Afro creative agenda as far as he can, no matter what.
Touching on the wares in his latest collection, particularly his new fragrances, the man of lavish tastes explains: “The notes that I like to collect are really amazing. For women, we focused on florals, chillies and freshness, and for the men woods and darker notes. I think when you experience it, you’ll actually feel the luxury coming through from these notes. We decided to select the most expensive juices to say that, just because it’s made in South Africa, doesn’t mean it has to be cheap. We can do it locally and it can be beautiful; it can be luxury.”
The driving slogan for this collaboration is “watch me now”, which Tlale says is not a proclamation of arrogance, but rather cultivating a sense of unwavering self-confidence.
“It’s just a manner of saying I’m appreciative of the journey, I’m appreciative of the grace of God on our lives as a brand and how far we have come.
“We have arrived at a point where we’re going to reach out to hundreds and thousands of people who wouldn’t have been able to afford David Tlale. But because as a brand we’ve always been aspirational, I [asked how] we as a luxury brand made in South Africa could keep on inspiring the upcoming generation or even people on the outskirts of Johannesburg.”
Looking to the future, Tlale says his plan for expansion involves his stepping away from outright artistry to fuse his creativity with shrewd business acumen.
He ends off by giving us insight into his plan of cross-continental domination.
“We are distributing in Nigeria right now and there’s a potential opportunity coming from Ghana. We’re also distributing in New York at Flying Solo, which is what we want – to make sure that people, everywhere they go, within a 2km or 3km or 5km radius, are able to get a ticket and a piece.”