David Tlale Turns A Corner! ... Corner Von Brandis and Fox Street.

After 14 years in this industry, it is safe to say; I have seen it all. For years I have bemoaned the fact that local celebrities seem to miss the point when it comes to building viable local brands by trying too hard to emulate international standards. 

Now in 2016, I feel people in this business are getting it. There has been a disconnect between the local entertainment industry and the market they serve. In our quest to be on par with our international counterpart we have seemingly set ourselves up for failure. For the good part of the past 20 years we have wasted resources to try and be like them instead of acknowledging our own unique selling points and capitalising on them. 

No-one encapsulate the turn of the tide like fashion designer David Tlale. For a good decade, Tlale represented the model of success and was the epitome of black excellence within the industry. The name David Tlale, to this day, carries such reverence that the man behind the name has had to deal with a misconstrued label of being arrogant simply because he commands respect — which he totally deserves. 

Unfortunately, with great media perceived success comes scrutiny. The biggest shock that followed Tlale's media profile rise was the reports that David Tlale [the brand] with all this glitz and glamour, was not making money. It was also reported that at some point the designer was all but bankrupt. How? The most well known luxury fashion brand in SA was not making money?!

However, anyone with any inkling of the reality of the South African creative industry could grasp why that may be the case. To understand Tlale's alleged failed business model, one has to step back and look at our country and entertainment industry beyond the veneer. For a local black woman who wants to blow R40 000 on 2or 3 dresses, Tlale was not an attractive option. 

We are flashy people but our superficiality when it came to blowing money on brands worked against people like Tlale. Simply because it makes a for better statement in most black people's minds to flash a Gucci than a David Tlale. Thus it made perfect sense why brands like David Tlale were floundering juxtaposed to their more internationally recognised counterparts in Sandton. 

It's 2016 and David Tlale has turned a corner and once again has put himself at the helm of a turning tide in this country's creative industry. Having listened to a few of his speeches at events, it has become apparent to me that Mr Tlale has had a wake up call of sort — and we are all better for it.

Tlale has realised that celebrity does pay but building a customer base does. In his words on Thursday July 28th 2016 at an event he held at his new pop-up store in the CBD, Tlale said; 
"I was one of the people caught up in the 'burbs. I completely missed the essence of what this city could offer. Fans do not pay the bills. We need customers. We need people to support our local brands but we cant do that by trying to be a Gucci..."
Tlale has revealed himself to be a changed man who gets where  South Africa Africa is and what works in this continent. This is the man who has seen the world and showcased in New York Fashion Week and in Paris. He's had the taste of what could be on the international stage and clearly learned a thing or two about the business of fashion. 

Now Tlale has remodelled his whole business approach and is working with the local fashion market and not above it. Dare I say it again; we are all better for it. David Tlale will forever be a pioneer and trailblazer. His business decision will inevitably steer the industry in to what I believe will be a prosperous future. 

Fashion is a business. Most designers in the fashion capitals of the world would not showcase at fashion weeks without a financial investors. Tom Ford, Zac Posen, etc they all have business investors behind them. With the lack of such in SA, designers have to make business decisions that will yield the most financial returns for them. This is where being innovative and adaptable plays a major role.
I was bemused by a tweet that seem to suggest that David Tlale offering lay-byes at his pop-up store is a step down. Of course what the person who posted this fails to grasp is that this is the most enterprising decision Tlale has come up with for his business. 

Offering lay-byes doesn't mean Tlale is sluming or trying to be a Pep Store but rather, in my view, makes him appealing to the general black market that has seen his brand as too hoity toity. 

By moving to the CBD and offering payment options that will attract the average buyer, this will endear Tlale's brand to the masses. After-all what is the point of having a famous brand that nobody cares to buy? He is still DAVID TLALE. That name means something to a lot of people.

Tlale is also using his profile to help promote the Gauteng Province of South Africa as well as highlight the importance of urban rejuvenation in the Johannesburg inner-city. His collaboration with Gauteng Tourism Authority has seem him become a vocal advocate for the return of businesses to the inner city to help revitalise this hub of Africa economic prosperity. 

In ideal circumstances, Tlale could dress Charlize Theron and become a household international brand but he would still have to move merchandise and that means appealing to the general public and not just high-end clientele.

In turning this corner, Tlale has indeed changed the future of the fashion industry for black designers in this country. The perception that you need to be famous to make money will not hold as much reverence and the model that you have .to build a strong clientele base and then become famous off of that while making money will be the goal instead 

Once upon the time, David Tlale was a celebrity designer now he is a fashion entrepreneur. David by David Tlale is available in Joburg CBD at corner Von Brandis and Fox and yes you can lay-bye!

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