From designs to mentoring and education: celebrating 20 years of fashion with David Tlale

David Tlale posing with models for his TlaleVosloo2NewYork showcase. Picture: Instagram.

David Tlale posing with models for his TlaleVosloo2NewYork showcase. Picture: Instagram.

Published Nov 10, 2023


Aside from being one of the most successful designers in Africa, David Tlale is renowned on the global fashion stage.

The 48-year-old’s design career started two decades ago when he left his day job as a lecturer at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) in the early 2000s to pursue a career in fashion.

Tlale’s big break came in 2003 when he won first place at the Elle South African Fashion Week competition after he completed his studies and decided to launch his synonymous brand.

Over the years, the multi-award-winning fashion designer worked tirelessly to grow his brand. And his hard work paid off – he eventually became the most sought-after designer in Africa.

With the help of African Fashion International (AFI), Tlale also made his entry into the global market.

The Vosloorus-born designer has showcased at some of the biggest fashion shows in the world, including New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week.

He also has stores in fashion capitals across the globe such as New York, Johannesburg, Rwanda and Ghana.

And in a bid to merge his passion for fashion and teaching, the celebrated designer launched “The Intern by David Tlale” back in 2012. Through the initiative, Tlale mentored young designers as he schooled them in all things fashion.

A striking look from the David Tlale ‘Noir’ collection. Picture: Reze Bonna Photo.

The programme saw Tlale teaching young and aspiring designers about the business of fashion and how to build a sustainable brand. He also gave them a platform to showcase their collections in one of his fashion shows.

Years later, Tlale remains passionate about mentoring budding designers and giving them a platform to showcase their creations.

He used his “20 years of David Tlale” fashion show this week to give young designers a chance to shine.

The event was held at The Venue in Melrose Arch in Johannesburg on Wednesday. Apart from commemorating his two-decade long successes in the fashion industry, Tlale also used the occasion to give his interns a platform to showcase their latest collections, which were all well received.

A handkerchief summer dress by David Tlale. Picture: Lee-Roy L Jason.

During “20 years of David Tlale”, the veteran designer also showcased his Spring/Summer 23/24 collection. This range featured 80 looks which were dedicated to his late mother, Joyce Tlale, who would’ve turned 80 this year.

“Tonight was all about a retrospect of signature pieces that we’ve created over the years,” Tlale said at the event.

“It’s a celebration of 20 years, beautiful pieces, beautiful fabrications and working with an amazing team to make sure people experience David Tlale holistically.

“This was my most unforgettable fashion moment. It’s tears of my mother, Joyce, and seeing people loving and celebrating David Tlale. This is going down in the books of history.”

A look from the David Tlale “Antics” collection. Picture: Sir Abner Makgamatha.

Tlale said that building a brand from scratch was not easy. It took “dedication, hard work, commitment and consistency”.

Being in this competitive industry for 20 years was one of the greatest accomplishments of his career.

“My biggest achievement is sustaining the business for two decades, with many other things that have happened along the way,” Tlale shared.

He said that included quitting accounting to pursue a career in fashion, launching a brand at Fashion Week and growing it to become a renowned label that showcased internationally and locally.

“Also, seeing some of the fashion schools on the continent actually use our content to train their students has been amazing,” Tlale added.

An achievement that Tlale is also proud of is receiving an Honorary Doctorate in Arts and Design from the Tshwane University of Technology, for his contribution to the fashion industry.

A striking look featured at the David Tlale showcase on November 8. Supplied image.

“I dedicated the Doctorate degree to my mom, Joyce, my family, friends, the media and my beautiful country, South Africa.”

“To my team, thank you … God, your grace is sufficient for me,” the veteran designer said at the time.

What sets Tlale apart from his design counterparts is that he doesn’t want his clothes to be worn only by celebrities. Instead, he wants his designs to be accessible to and enjoyed by all.

He explained: “I want to say thank you to all my clients from every walk of life because every cent, every dime, every dollar we have received from our customers has helped us to sustain and build, and will continue to do so because we have people who believe in us as a brand.”

He said that as one of the seasoned designers in Africa, he wanted to be remembered as a designer who created a brand that had imparted knowledge and skills.

He also wanted his legacy to be that of a designer who helped grow the industry and sustained African fashion.

To continue with the “20 Years of David Tlale” celebrations, the designer will be staging 20 fashion shows across the world in the coming months.