Auditor-turned-designer Otsile Sefolo of Otiz Seflo reflects on a fashion-filled year

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Otsile Sefolo of Otiz Seflo says making people look beautiful is his calling.
Otsile Sefolo of Otiz Seflo says making people look beautiful is his calling.
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He has a signature look sexy, diva, sassy yet classy.

This year, fashion designer Otsile Sefolo of Otiz Seflo saw some of South Africa’s celebrities become daring on the red carpets and functions.

From the boob-showing dress worn by Anele Zondo at the South African Music Awards and LootLove showing more skin than usual to Boity’s bold pink outfit at the Basadi in Music Awards and the gentlemen looks worn dapperly by Tino Chinyane.

“It’s truly been an exciting year for me,” Otiz tells Drum.

“I have not quite grasped the excitement around the brand yet.”

He has collaborated with many Mzansi stars and, to date, he can name his favourites.

“One of my favourites was with Tumi “Stogie T” Molakane for his wedding day. That was fun for me. I also enjoyed working with Dineo Langa and her husband, Solo. My latest favourite collaboration is with Loot Love,” he says.

“With Loot Love, it's not just about clothes, it's more intense, personal and about us walking the journey together as opposed to getting an item of clothing and giving it to a customer.

"Where Loot finds herself is where I find myself. We both feel a rebirth where we relaunch ourselves and we are learning to walk and crawl again. Where we are figuring ourselves out and changing direction. The relationship is more intense and spiritual.” 

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Born in the North West, Otsile grew up in Morula View, North of Pretoria. His love for fashion came at a young age in high school.

“When I was a child, I would take my sibling's clothes and cut them out. I would go to a mama down the road from us and she would help to put them together. I would direct her and she would stitch it up for me."

But he was unaware that was fashion. 

“I was in Grade 9 and I used to pay her with my lunch money. But she was very fond of me, most of the time I got away with not paying,” he says.

The fourth child out of six, he is the only creative in his family.

“I was forced to figure things out because the house was always busy. My parents could afford basics and not many luxuries, so we became very creative,” he says.

His grandmother used to make clothes in her spare time, that is where he believes to have gotten the talent. 

“But I didn’t get to spend much time with her. I never got to experience that side of her,” he says.

Everywhere he went, he stood out for wearing clothes that were customised and no one else had. 

“I used to love dressing up and my ex-partner was always impressed. He would always suggest that I consider going into fashion. But I had no clue there was something called fashion. I just loved to wear good clothes which I would make, but had no idea I could make a business out of it,” he says. 

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A qualified auditor, Otiz graduated with a degree from TUT in 2008. 

“Before I could start working as an auditor, I got the idea to pursue design. I hated auditing anyway. I knew that I was creative. I was young. After high school, I didn’t know what to do with my life and my parents forced me to go study something, and I chose auditing to have something to fall back on.”

After a year or two as an auditor, he decided to go and study fashion design at LISOF, where he got his degree. 

“Three months of me studying fashion, I got clients,” he says.

“There was a gentleman who I respect a lot, Theo Mabongwa. He gave me the confidence to design clothes. He was my very first client. I made pants for him which did not fit, but he gave me two other chances. He gave me R250 to buy the fabric, but the clothes didn’t fit and he persisted and encouraged me to continue,” he says.

From then he got more clients and gained confidence.

“Then, I only specialised in making only menswear.” 

Later in 2009, he started making clothes for men and women. His first big client was a couple getting married in 2010. This year, he celebrates 14 years as a designer. 

“I couldn’t even make proper dresses back then. I was pasting diamante on the clothes. Looking back at how far we have come, I cringe when I see some of the old work,” he laughs.

He started making clothes in his bachelor apartment in Rosebank, Johannesburg, until 2013 when he opened his own design studio, moving from one location to the next. 

“I demarcated the room with a rail. On one side was a bed and on the other, my consultation room with my sewing machine in between.” 

Today he runs a studio in Parkhurst with 15 employees. 

“I am happy about how far we have come. I am now working towards building the brand. We have been invited to New York Fashion Week and we are still deciding whether or not to take up the offer. But I feel 2023 is a good year to try new things and get out of my comfort zone.” 

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