Designer Tlale has big dreams for his fashion house

Designer David Tlale and his entourage
Designer David Tlale and his entourage
Image: Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

I was pleasantly surprised on a visit to David Tlale's high-walled studios, in Maboneng, central Joburg, to find out that some of the garments on sale are quite affordable - going for as little as R200 per item.

 As customers rush to get the bespoke collection at a bargain, Tlale maintains that he is not just a celebrity brand.

"Despite what people may think, our biggest clients are ordinary men and women. We have people with old money and new money coming to buy. If a domestic worker mother has saved money for her daughter's matric dance dress, then she too is my client," said Tlale.

If you step into an Edgars retail store, you can find a Tlale top from a mere R300 but high-end dresses can cost as much as R3000.

Tlale, who has recently released an underwear range with Jockey, said most of his high-end items are sold at Luminance.

While his industrious staff work quietly despite shyly chuckling at the occasional joke their boss makes, Tlale disclosed his frustrations with the fashion industry.

"We want to have a full production house. India and Mauritius do that, where nothing is imported. We ultimately want everyone to be able to afford David Tlale's designs.

"Our biggest chunk of clients comes from retail and private clients who have built relationships with us over the years. However, I can sell one suit to a private client and will be happy, but at retail I have to sell more of those," said Tlale.

Tlale said his private collection tailor made suits sell for over R16000. The gold and black signage in his studio proclaims that Tlale can only be seen via appointment.

"I charge for consultations because when I consult I am working," he explained, pulling out his own in-house printed pattern that has been sewn into a bright pink suit.

The fashion house has recently started printing their own fabric after the National Empowerment Fund supplied them with the right equipment.

If Tlale has his way, in three years the fashion house will produce everything in-house and will be able to hire up to 500 employees.