Sithole says his label, Earthquake, is generally defined as a movement that disrupts everything in its path

Zenoyise Madikwa

Zenoyise Madikwa

Though John Sithole's studio is in a concealed place somewhere in Stanley Road, Milpark, it oozes energy and vigour.

At first you can dismiss it as another hang-out for naughty boys. Blaring hip-hop music, threads and cloths that compete for space on the floor, greet visitors to this young fashion designer's studio.

It is in this place where big ideas , that have conquered fashion ramps and won the hearts of judges, were conceived.

Sithole needs no introduction. His denim-inspired garments made waves when they won him the True Love Babe Young Designer Award. The award is some kind of a nod from industry peers, allowing the participants greater scope for experimentation, than collections for Fashion Weeks - a big ego-booster for a starting designer.

Before that Sithole had won Surf Fashion your Future, a reality series and designer competition aired on SABC recently. He took part as one of the eight finalists in the Elle New Talent Show.

In August, his designs featured in the Johannesburg Fashion Week as the first label on the showcase ramp.

Sithole says he is inspired by lunatics and taxi drivers. This explains the scenario that greets a visitor to his studio.

The 24-year-old is the head designer and owner of the Earthquake label, a label conceived in 2004. His designs are uptown luxe and through both his eponymous line and StrangeLove, he's dressed socialites and celebs such as Lebo Mathosa, Plum, Rockerss Miserychord, and Acid Jazz Band, among others.

"I enjoyed making clothes for Lebo because of her creativity and sense of style. Her well- curved body was easy to dress and design for."

Sithole graciously acknowledges that the effect of the prizes he won is that they inspired him to start his own business, which has grown from strength- to-strength over the last few months.

Of Earthquake, Sithole says the label is generally defined as a movement that disrupts everything in its path. "Nothing escapes its effects. With this label we aim at creating a palpable effect. This label is already causing quivers among Jozi fashion savvy set," he boasts.

Sithole has created most of the designs, but says some are crafted according to his clients' specifications.

Though he works across fabrics and styles, he prefers denim and canvas.

"What I love about denim and canvas is that they are not governed by seasons and are suitable for both street and office wear. The label is turning into one of South Africa's most promising street-wear styles."

Sithole's inspiration for fashion is drawn from the well of his family's creativity.

When his grandfather started selling tracksuits and jerseys to men at the Nancefield Hostel in Soweto, he had no idea his business would inspire generations to come.

Learning from his grandfather, his uncle started a company which turned into a corporate clothing company in Mpumalanga. The business continues to run successfully to date. It is here that Sithole and his brother Sam learnt their trade.

"Every day after school I used to come to my uncle's studio and help out. The love for cloth grew and I found myself thinking about nothing else but making clothes," he says.

After finishing matric, Sam went to study clothing management at Wits Technikon. Sithole later followed in his footsteps. During his tenure at Wits Technikon, he worked for well-known labels like StrangeLove.

In July 2004, he went it alone and started Earthquake. He now works with his brother and other extended family members.