Eastern Cape fashion designer to showcase at a show in Nigeria

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Thando Piliso fell in love with fashion design after his aunt taught him the basics.
Thando Piliso fell in love with fashion design after his aunt taught him the basics.

Fashion design is his life. He does not see himself doing anything either than making men and women feel and look beautiful.

Fashion designer Thando Piliso (34) is among the designers across the world who will showcase 20 garments each at The Nook International Fashion show in Lagos, Nigeria. 

“The inspiration for every range at this show comes from an electric mix of sources. It can be a sharp piece of tailoring to an underground streetwear movement.”

Thando draws his inspiration from everyday life. 

“I am forever jotting notes, taking photographs, searching the web for that next inspirational idea. I believe that the main skill as a designer is taking all these external and internal inspirational forces, interpreting them creatively then moulding them into that special collection relevant to each season and suitable for the client,” he says. 

Born in Somerset East in the Eastern Cape, Thando of Thando Piliso Designs says fashion is his calling. 

“I do not see myself doing anything else. Some people have a spiritual calling, this is mine. I can make people feel good by how they look.” 

Thando has dressed well-known stars such as Nomcebo Zikode, Somizi Mhlongo, Amanda Black, Zikhona Sodlaka, Zandile Msutwana and he strives to be one of the most sought-after designers in the country.

“Making people feel good is my specialty. Seeing them transform and enhance their already beautiful features is a blessing.” 

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Thando started designing at a very young age after watching his aunt, Phumla Piliso. She is a teacher who loved to design clothing in her spare time. “My aunt loved designing and loved looking good. She taught me almost everything I know today from a young age and I was always fascinated by putting together a garment.” 

Today he often uses his family as his models. 

“Even today, my mom is my muse. I enjoy dressing her for functions.” 

He has entered various design competitions in pursuit of his dream. He was named one of the top eight designers at the Buyelekhaya Pan African Concert in 2015. He was also selected to work as an upcoming designer on a mentorship programme certified by the world-renowned designers David Tlale and Thula Sindi. It is in programs like these that he honed his skills in fashion design and garment construction. He has showcased in Nelson Mandel Fashion week 2016 and 2017. 

“I have been so blessed to have received mentorship from the best designers in the country. They have taught me precision, treating each garment like a masterpiece, and professionalism is at the top of my list,” he says. 

Thando has designed for Native Rhythm productions, PE Opera House, Getroud Met Rugby, Muthaland Records, and The Space as a freelancer. “Getting experience from various design groups has helped me to find my style and be able to distinguish my looks and signature,” he says.  

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The self-taught fashion designer enrolled with the Damelin School of Fashion, where he obtained a certificate in fashion designing and retail buying.

“Some people don’t need formal education, but I found it important to learn the history of my craft and to be able to learn the techniques that I cannot be able to discover on my own,” he adds. 

Thando’s design philosophy is elegance and simplicity. 

“This is simply looking at the world, keeping eyes open to the endless beauty of fashion." This leads to pride in putting the name to every style he produces. 

A few years ago, he opened a store in Westbourne, Gqeberha, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it closed down. 

“Business was tough, there were no events, people were not ordering any garments and not shopping, and we couldn’t afford to keep the store open.” A year ago, he opened his design studio in North End Alfin house, Gqeberha, and has employed seven staff members. 

“Being back in business is amazing and especially being able to work in my hometown. There was a high demand for me to open a studio in my hometown. People were loving the clothes but had no access to them. I also felt a need to want to create employment for my city.” 

Thando will be launching his Johannesburg studio at the end of February 2022.  

“Joburg still has a very important part of my work. Many stars still make orders knowing very well I am in another city. I found it fitting that I open another branch in Johannesburg,” he adds. 

The Nook International Fashion show is on 11 February 2022.

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