A CUT ABOVE by maclaren1



DAVID TLALE                                                                                   ALICE HEUSSER
David Tlale – cosmopolitan couture                                                            Lalesso – East African beach chic

How do you dress a contestant for                                                             If you own one of the original Lalesso
the Miss World pageant, the world’s                                                           garments, you may know that this soft,
most watched annual TV show with                                                              bright cotton was woven in Kenya,
a global audience of two billion?                                                             handwashed in the ocean and then
   This is the challenge that faced                                                           individually crafted by local tailors.
Jozi designer David Tlale when                                                                    Today, thanks to a booming business,
he was approached by African                                                                  Lalesso’s designs are reprinted on
Fashion International to create                                                               silks and cottons in India, but are still
an evening gown for Miss Kenya,                                                               stitched in the seaside town of Diani
Kazakhstan, Korea and Latvia three                                                            Beach by Kenyan tailors, before being
weeks before the 2008 pageant at                                                              jetted off to SA, the UK and Europe.
the Sandton Convention Centre.                                                                    It started on holiday while still in first
   And he had a week in which to                                                              year, explains Alice, 24. She visited the
do it, so that the girls could fit the                                                         Indian Ocean island of Lamu with a
dresses ahead of time.                                                                        Kenyan classmate, Olivia Kennaway,
   But it’s all in a day’s work for David,                                                    who is now her business partner.
who also had a show in Nigeria at                                                                 While there they fell in love with the
the time and who has shown his work                                                           khanga fabrics worn by local women
in Paris, Washington and New York.                                                            and returned home with a couple
   ‘Wow! That’s what I thought when                                                           of hundred skirts which sold like hot
I heard that I was to be one of 30                                                            cakes. By the time they graduated
local designers to create gowns for                                                           they were supplying several stores with
the pageant. It was totally daunting,                                                         garments. Today – two years after
but then I decided that we shouldn’t                                                          graduating – this duo has a flagship
try to do something different but stick                                                       store in Cape Town’s Kloof Street and
to our signature look.’                                                                       they supply close to 20 local boutiques,
   It’s a look with global appeal,                                                            England’s mega-stores Topshop and
inspired by designers like Armani,                                                            Joy, and other boutiques worldwide.
Gaultier and Galliano. David                                                                      Not only that, but English style icons,
believes in using magnificent fabric,                                                          actress Sienna Miller and model Kate
immaculate craftsmanship and                                                                  Moss, have both been snapped by
boldness in design and colour to                                                              the paparazzi in Lalesso garments.
create beauty without pretension.                                                                 But for Alice, nothing compares with
The dresses he designed were in SA’s                                                          the impact they have had on a small
national colours of green and gold,                                                           community of tailors on the Kenyan

                                             A CUT ABOVE
in the finest silk satin and silk chiffon.                                                     coast. What began with a request
   And he says SA’s designers did                                                             to two ladies who ran their tailoring
the country proud. With a growing                                                             businesses on the pavements of Diani
fashion industry, rich heritage and                                                           Beach, to run up some skirts, is now an
talent, he believes SA can compete
                                               South Africa’s hottest fashion designers are   outfit that employs 22 tailors, beach
globally and he benchmarks his               making their mark, making money and making       boys who carve coconut buttons,
own designs on how international                  the world take note, says Lisa Templeton    Masai tribesmen to do beading and
buyers respond to them.                                                                       a group of nuns in Nairobi, known as
   So what does he do when he is                                                              The Crochet Sisters, to do the trims.
not dressing the world’s beauties?                                                                ‘Taking our clothes to China to be
   ‘I love to read, in particular the                                                         manufactured was not an option. It
Bible which grounds me. I enjoy                                                               has been immensely humbling to have
eating out and on Sundays I like to                                                           such a positive impact on people’s
spend time with my family. I am very                                                          lives. More than anything, this is what
blessed, I am living my dream.’                                                               inspires us to grow the business.’
☎ 011 214 2700 / 083 583 2635                                                                 ☎ 021 424 5565 / 079 132 8841
www.davidtlale.co.za                                                                          www.lalesso.com

                                                                                                                   southernsun.com 55

Vukani Fashions – creator of
Madiba shirts

Sonwabile (Sonny) Ndamase created
one of the most iconic fashion items in
post-apartheid SA: the Madiba shirt,
the distinctive, stylish garment worn by
Nelson Mandela.
   Intricately patterned, well cut and
worn buttoned to the neck and loose
at the waist, the shirt bellowed: African
and proud. It rang in ethnic style and
put Vukani Fashions on the map.
   ‘To see one of the most remarkable
people of the 20th century in my shirt
was like being a child who’s been
given stok lekkers (candy cane) for
the first time,’ says Sonwabile.
   ‘I was awed, my eyes wide, mouth
open and heart boundlessly satisfied
– a kid in a candy store!’
   And Mr Mandela set the trend:
Vukani shirts have since been worn
by the likes of Jacob Zuma, Winnie
Madikizela-Mandela, Tokyo Sexwale
as well as the late Steve Tshwete,
activist Joe Slovo and violinist Lord
Yehudi Menuhin.
   Proudly African describes Sonwabile,
who says he strives to capture the
African spirit in all he creates. He also
strives to inject his enthusiasm and
drive into young, upcoming designers.
   Twenty years ago he sowed the
seeds for the South African Fashion
Designers Association (SAFDA) –
endorsed by Nelson Mandela and
Thabo Mbeki – which gives young
designers a helping hand with design
mentorship, business skills and exposure
through initiatives such as the Vukani
Fashion Awards.
   What advice would he give to
up-and-coming designers?
   ‘A lot of what we ascribe to luck is
not luck at all. It’s seeing what other
people don’t see and pursuing that
vision. Entrepreneurship is a state of
mind, a can-do attitude, a capacity to
focus on a vision and work towards it.
   ‘Most powerful is he who has himself
in his own power.’
☎ 011 402 1661/2

                   southernsun.com 57

 Mzansi Designers – African chic

 When you ask Lesego Malatsi which
 of his designs stands out for him after
 almost two decades in the rag trade,
 he’ll grin and mention the evening
 gown that sold in the US for R18 000 and
 caused a seismic ripple of shock in SA.
    ‘It was cerise, made of woven satin
 ribbon,’ he says. ‘Everyone wanted to
 know how I designed a circular skirt
 of woven ribbon, but that’s a secret!’
    Exquisite evening gowns being one
 of his strong points, who is his muse?
    ‘Eva Mendes,’ he answers, without
 pause.‘She first inspired me when I saw
 her in the movie Hitch. She has an
 amazing shape and she conducts
 herself fluidly and with confidence.’
    But failing Eva, he’d love to dress
 Florence Masebe of Muvhango or
 Generations star Connie Ferguson
 or actor Hlomla Dandala.
    Soweto-bred, Lesego cut his artistic
 teeth creating wire cars and today
 he remains inspired by African motifs.
    ‘I like to look at rural people, who still
 have a raw way of dressing that has
 not been influenced by European or
 Asian culture, and note the colours
 they choose and the way they put it
 together. Our country is a kaleidoscope
 of colour and if we ignore our African
 edge, we will deny ourselves the
 chance of making a global impact.’
    He is certainly keen to make a
 difference in SA. In 2004 Lesego and
 his partner, Maki Dikgole, set up Mzansi
 Designers to take in young designers
 and give them the experience
 needed to go it alone. To date, six
 youngsters have passed through their
 doors who now run their own design
 businesses, and 12 have set them-
 selves up to work as a co-operative.
    What is his hot tip for us for 2009?
    ‘I would encourage everyone to be
 as individual and authentic as possible.
    ‘It’s no good looking to my idol, Eva,
 for inspiration,’ Lesego says, ‘when we
 have our own colours and culture to
 inspire the world.’
 ☎ 011 336 8935/6 / 079 360 9308

58 southernsun.com

Darkie Clothing – recycling king

Some people recycle paper, glass –
maybe tins and plastic – but Themba
‘Darkie’ Mngomezulu made his fortune
recycling clothes.
   It all began when he was a primary
school kid in black and white Florsheim
shoes, selling second-hand clothes
door-to-door in Pretoria with his mom,
a former domestic worker with a
strong sense of what would appeal
to her market, realistic pricing and
friendly but deadly persuasiveness.
   From there he started slashing and
recombining anything from designer
clothing to ties and curtains, to create
funky, distinctive articles of clothing
that his friends couldn’t get enough of.
   But his big break came when he
began to supply clothes to a shop in
The Space in Rosebank, Jo’burg. They
were spotted by local fashion guru
Dion Chang who invited him to do
a collection for the South African
Fashion Week in 2002.
   ‘I didn’t even know what a
collection was!’ Themba laughs,
thinking back. ‘I had to ask a friend
and she gave me the low-down and
showed me books to inspire me.’
   The result was a collection that
sparked a media frenzy ... and a
burgeoning career.
   Today his mom supplies him with
second-hand clothes at a good price,
and his range has grown to include
non-recycled clothes too. But despite
his success – with a Cape Town studio
and stores in Cape Town and Jo’burg
– his designs retain their township vibe,
which is as edgy as the Afro comb
logo that accompanies his work.
   He also captured this Afro chic
when he designed the team kit
for Morocco Swallows, a job close
to this soccer lover’s heart.
   And what’s with the name?
   Darkie chuckles: ‘It’s always been
my nickname because my skin is very
dark, but it’s cool – even if you want
to forget, you can’t!’
☎ 021 424 2993

                   southernsun.com 61

 DM Classic – impeccable image

 Keen to look chic and sophisticated,
 but loathe to blow a year’s food
 budget on haute couture?
    The answer is to spend your money
 wisely on a few choice items, says
 Dennis Manthata, the man behind
 DM Classic.
    Here’s what you could splash out
 on: a classic white shirt, crisp and
 beautifully cut, a tailored suit to show
 off your body shape to best effect, an
 evening gown in fabulous fabric and
 shoes and belts.
    ‘For the rest, you need to assess your
 physical assets and liabilities and work
 with what you’ve got,’ says Dennis. ‘If
 you’ve got a good eye, you can mix
 and match and choose items that will
 complement your designer clothing
 without spending a fortune.’
    Practising what he preaches, Dennis
 never steps out the door unless he’s
 groomed and exquisitely attired.
    ‘I have to look the part – if I look
 shabby how can I hope to sell my
 clothes?’ says the man who has
 dressed the Zulu royal family, former
 Miss South Africa Joan Ramagoshi
 and musicians Mafikizolo and Malaika.
    He’s also been an image consultant
 for the soapie Generations.
    ‘That was really exciting. I’d be given
 a script or idea for a character, and
 have to come up with a look for them.
 It was great fun to come up with story
 boards for suggestions, to see the

                                                 PHOTOGRAPHY: JURIE POTGIETER/GLAMOUR MECHANICS, SARAH WOODS/HSMimages
 hectically busy wardrobe department
 behind the scenes and to finally see
 the product of my efforts on TV.’
    But fashion is not all glamour, says
 Dennis who, despite his success, is
 known for his down-to-earth attitude
 and old-fashioned sense of etiquette,
 and who works out of a studio in
 Atteridgeville, Pretoria, the neighbour-
 hood where he played as a boy.
    ‘Fashion is not for sissies. To survive as
 a designer you need to be passionate
 about what you do, to love fashion to
 the fullest.’
 ☎ 012 373 8269 / 083 726 3667

62 southernsun.com

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