Tomi Rikhotso making his mark in fashion design
Tomi Rikhotso may be shy but his stunning designs always take up centre stage.
The 29-year-old designer, who is arguably one of the most in-demand fashion designers in SA, is opening his first store Tomi R in Houghton Estate, Johannesburg, after nine tough but fruitful years in the industry.
“It took me about eight to nine years to open this store and it took me a while to get the kind of recognition I am getting. I have worked very hard,” he said.
Rikhotso, who was born in Soweto, said his mom is a dressmaker and his first skills were taught by her. He went to a technical high school, where he learned a lot of practical skills but thought he would pursue a civil engineering degree after high school.
“My mom is a dressmaker, so I learned to sew from a young age. The passion grew from there. I grew up not having friends. She is the one who taught me how to use a sewing machine,” he said.
“I ended up making handbags during my gap year, while applying to universities and for bursaries.”
The young designer said while he was applying for universities he met a woman from the youth development centre who helped him get enrolled in a fashion designing learnership.
“I learned a lot and those skills and experience from a technical school and my mom’s teachings enhanced and helped me,” said Rikhotso.
He said his biggest challenge had been working with clients who were rigid about their ideas.
“Some come with designs from David Tlale and they want me to recreate that dress but I can’t do that. I have to make my own design. Some people want discounts and don’t understand why I give a certain price,” he said.
Rikhotso said his biggest break was in 2018 when singer Shekhinah asked him to design for her. He has since designed for the likes of Zahara, Busiswa and Rami Chuene.
“Shekhinah is my first celebrity client. I make outfits for her and she gives me freedom to be creative,” he said.
He said he now got many requests from people across the country and had even had two international clients request his services. His store will have ready-to-wear clothes as well as being used as a space for customers to get fittings and fetch their custom-made outfits.