Fashion intern looks to the future

WHEN 26-year-old Siphosihle Masango learnt that iconic fashion designer David Tlale was looking for his next intern, it seemed like the perfect glove fit.

Masango says he grew up admiring Tlale, and that people were constantly likening him and his work to that of Tlale's.

He says this initially irritated him. "As a young designer, I had grown up loving David, and really looked up to him. But I almost got irritated with how everyone would constantly make the comparison between us.

"People even said I looked like him, and it slowly started to get to me. I wanted to be known as Siphosihle Masango, not a David Tlale wannabe."

Masango, who studied fashion design at the University of Johannesburg, says it wasn't until his mother persuaded him to submit an application to possibly be chosen as David Tlale's intern in 2015, that he finally agreed to embrace his inner David.

"I initially wasn't interested. I completely disregarded the competition when I saw it, until my mother persuaded me otherwise. I realised that this was an amazing opportunity, and that I would actually get a chance to learn from a master of the trade.

"I submitted my application, and I was chosen as David Tlale's new intern."

Masango made his debut earlier this year at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and showcased under The Intern by David Tlale, along with four other interns who Tlale had taken under his wing. The most important thing he has learnt from Tlale is that quality transcends everything.

"David has always said that it's important for us to produce quality work, and to know our fabrics by name and to learn to distinguish quality fabric just from touching it."

Masango says, like Tlale, his design aesthetic is all about an individual who wants to stand out. "If you are looking for a plain outfit that will make you blend in with the crowd, then I am definitely not your designer.

"I am all about a confident woman who is strong and wants to stand out from the crowd, who sparks a conversation about her outfit when she enters a room.

"I also think that is where people might recognise a bit of David's stamp in my work too; the fact that me and him are all about high fashion and show stoppers."

Does Masango have a break-out plan from Tlale's shadow? His answer is a resounding "yes!"

"My plan is to learn as much as I can about the business of fashion. Knowing the technicalities and logistics involved in having your own brand. So I plan to firstly absorb and learn as much as I can.

"The mistake many people who have fashion internships often make is to rush to finish up their internship and establish themselves, and my plan is the direct opposite.

"I am in no rush. I still want to learn from David, and when the time is right, and I have learnt and absorbed enough, then it should be easy for me to establish myself as a brand.

"The one thing that David said that changed my life was telling us that he wants us to be better than him, otherwise there was no point in him investing his time and effort into teaching us his craft," he says.

Masango says he is currently working on a dramatic collection that will feature bold colours like cerise pink, and is inspired by the beauty of struggle.

"There is so much beauty in struggle, in that, yes, the struggle itself is not so nice, but on the other side of the struggle lies your goals. So I will be using georgette fabric and, instead of cutting it with scissors, I will be letting it flow.

"I have also recently dabbled with menswear, and just like my woman, the man I design for is very bold and fashion forward, and is not afraid to take fashion risks," he says.