“The VSOP works perfectly with me,” David Tlale says as he lifts a glass into the air. “It’s exotic and sometimes spicy. It’s not for the faint-hearted.” He then proceeds to school the gathered media on the proper etiquette of drinking cognac.
Once everyone is holding the glass by the stem and there are many pinky fingers in the air, he finishes his toast. In 2017, the multi-award-winning designer has quite a lot to celebrate.
He is at this event to announce that he – along with TV and radio personalities, Bonang Matheba and Tbo Touch – are the newest Courvoisier ambassadors. Under the title of “Lumiere” – which means “the enlightened ones” – Tlale adds yet another feather to his cap.
Previously, he was one of many celeb faces of the Ciroc vodka brand. So I ask him why he wanted to partner with Courvoisier. “I believe in relationships,” he starts. “It’s a natural progression for us to be where we are. Courvoisier is known to be luxury, decadent and timeless.”
“It’s a cognac that has been proven to be top of the class. I believe that’s what our brand, David Tlale, stands for. Not that we try to compete with the rest but we just do what we do best.” With that said, and 15 years at the forefront of fashion in South Africa, it’s easy to assume that it’s all work and no play for Tlale.
But in the spare moments he gets to play, he says his signature drink is the champagne cognac cocktail. “I love champagne and I love cognac so the best way is to put them together,” he smiles. “In fashion, we like the finer things in life and this is the best of both worlds.”
The world is a place that is quite familiar with David Tlale as a brand. The designer has shown his work in Europe and America. Recently, he made his debut in the Ivory Coast. He beams when he talks about this experience. “The Ivory Coast was very interesting,” he says.
“Ninety-eight percent of the population speaks French so I had to adjust and pull up the three little French words I know,” he laughs. “The people were really loving. That’s the first time I’ve been to a foreign country and people offer to have me come over to their homes for lunch. Their fashion industry is growing. There is quite a lot of talent that needs to be trained and brought forth to what we do here in South Africa. We will be launching our program, The Intern by David Tlale, in the Ivory Coast.”
The Intern by David Tlale – which sees eight interns compete to become an assistant designer to Tlale – will be one of two shows under Tlale’s hand at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town this month.
The other show will be his eponymous label’s showing. “It’s going to be a continuation of the reveal of what’s happening between David Tlale and Courvoisier,” he explains.
“It will be in a private venue, off site. Some things are just standard – that’s how we do. The evening just promises to be about luxury and decadence, beautiful people and fabulosity. The collection is based on celebrating our journey as the brand, David Tlale. We are 15 years old this year and people are like: are you going to do new styles?”
“I’m like: ‘no. We’re going to pick up the styles that have been evident over the years. The styles that people know us for. Yes, there will be an element of freshness but we will also be continuing on our new journey of printing fabrics made in South Africa.”
The designer who recently brought us Jockey by David Tlale, which saw Riky Rick become the face of the underwear brand, shows no signs of slowing down. He’s well-known for presenting his collections off-site. One of the most talked-about “venues” he used was the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg.
I ask him if his quest for out-of-the-box venues has pushed him to explore South Africa more intimately. “We have beautiful places in South Africa,” he exclaims. “It’s about taking people on a journey to teach them or even expose them to what we have in our country. The reason I take my shows off the typical tents and runways is to say: can we experience fashion in a different manner?”
The search for different experiences is what prompted Tlale to come up with a fundraising evening simply called the David Tlale Premium Gala. “Watch this space from 1 April. It’s not April Fools, it’s a real date,” he smiles mischievously. “We will have our second launch for the event happening in July. The Premium Gala is for those people who have a taste for the finer things in life. There’s an international artist who will be coming through for the Gala in July. The world must brace itself for that!”
Keep up with David Tlale on social media.