Thesis Lifestyle partners fried chicken giant for its 50th anniversary

Soweto's iconic brand clinches KFC deal

Londiwe Dlomo Journalist
Thesis Lifestyle was founded by the young and ambitious Wandile Zondo and Galebowe Mahlatsi.
Thesis Lifestyle was founded by the young and ambitious Wandile Zondo and Galebowe Mahlatsi.

The shop of one of Soweto’s iconic streetwear brands, Thesis Lifestyle, was the venue for fast food giant’s KFC’s big 50th anniversary reveal.

The brand invited media and influencers yesterday to launch its 50/50 campaign celebrating 50 years in the country. The brand will be offering consumers 50% off on selected items and it announced a collaboration with Thesis Lifestyle and Cape Town-based illustrator Russell Abrahams.

Abrahams designed illustrations for its nine-piece, 15-piece and 21-piece KFC buckets. The first ever clothing collaboration is called Thesis X KFC and includes a limited edition range of streetwear, including bucket hats, tote bags, T-shirts and vests.  

Thesis Lifestyle has been in Mofolo, Soweto, for 13 years, though the brand itself is 15 years old. The store is quite famous in Soweto, popularly nicknamed "ikhona lomhlaba" (world’s corner, meaning the best place to be). Big music act of the '90s TKZee even shot a music video there at one point.   

“We started a big movement between 2007 and 2012 which was called the Thesis social jam sessions and that event was a block party that we did around [the store’s] parking lot. We used to host artists, poets, comedians here at the store, which will always be a fond memory for us and me personally,” says Galebowe Mahlatsi, partner and creative director.  

Mahlatsi says the partnership with the fast food giant is part of a "long-game strategy", and that proximity to such a long-lived brand would further and cement icon status for them.

The first ever clothing collaboration is called Thesis X KFC and includes a limited edition range of streetwear, including bucket hats, tote bags, T-shirts and vests
The first ever clothing collaboration is called Thesis X KFC and includes a limited edition range of streetwear, including bucket hats, tote bags, T-shirts and vests

“The plan is to constantly grow the brand for another 15 years and it’s going to be one store at a time. And also we always believed in owning our supply chain, we also believe in the backend of our business, like opening a small factory, employing more young people like we currently are doing," says Wandile Zondo, partner and business manager of Thesis Lifestyle.  

"That’s just the plan and considering that we only have stores in Soweto there are so many opportunities to spread, [especially] around southern Africa but also as a brand we want to grow  in townships because what we want to do is tell the story of townships. So we would like probably to go to Umlazi or Gugulethu, we just want to continue with the narrative of telling the story of the township and inspiring more people." 

The duo believes that the term streetwear is basically used as reference and that streetwear is all up to interpretation and that the youth of SA need to continue starting their own brands and controlling the narrative.

Abrahams designed illustrations for its nine-piece, 15-piece and 21-piece KFC buckets.
Abrahams designed illustrations for its nine-piece, 15-piece and 21-piece KFC buckets.

“The future of South African streetwear still lies in us growing our own brands because we now own our narrative. That’s why you’ll find big brands, not just a KFC, even a Nike wanting to collaborate with people who are on the ground, that know what is happening,” says Mahlatsi.

The idea of inspiring young people and having them see a representation of themselves in certain spaces is also what drives 27-year-old illustrator Abrahams.   

“When I started in the industry  there weren’t a lot of people that look like me and I think that definitely representation matters. For myself it’s more like how can I pass the baton on and let other people, black women especially… I think that’s something I’m trying to kind of figure out, how to not be a gatekeeper to the industry for them. .. ja I know the position that I am in now and I feel like I can help others out,” he says.  

Abrahams has worked with other big brands such as Redbull and Woolworths.

 

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