MOST people get into thrifting because they honestly can’t afford the day’s fashion, so they take some vintage garments and tweak them here and there to get that drip. It’s a similar formula that Ntokozo Dladla used for his Queen Moraka T-shirts, but instead of using vintage attire he opted for a vintage character.
“Most of my friends had the vintage Rap Tour T-shirts and I really wanted one of my own but things on the financial side of my life were and are still all types of shaky,” Dladla tells me. So out of his need to fit in while simultaneously standing out, he came up with the idea to make his own T-shirt which would be more affordable than purchasing one.
“…I thought about making it about South African musicians, but there are already other street wear lines that have done this. It hit whilst I was thinking about gangster rap, that most of the rappers that told us stories of shoot outs, robberies, gang culture, etc. never even participated in such and all they were presenting to us as listeners was a character!!”
To Dladla, who’s also known as Danger, there’s no difference between Dr. Dre and Queen Moroka because they’re both fictional characters that he connected to while growing up in the streets of Vosloorus.
But like most darkies who grew up in the 90s traditionally watching Generations at 20:00 on Simunye We Are 1, you’d ask yourself why he chose to use Sophie Lichaba’s (formerly known as Ndaba) character, he could’ve gone for a Karabo Moroka, Julia Motene or Ntsiki Lukhele.
“I won’t lie, I found Karabo Moroka’s character too easy. Like she is definitely a crowd favourite and that comes with automatic success but even though Queen holds the same level of legendary stature, I feel like at the end of the original Generations run she became comic relief and her character could go weeks without showing up and it wouldn’t even effect the storyline. So I chose Queen because I have a warm place in my heart for the under dogs. Plus her whole vibe was about being glamorous which goes well with certain themes I want to play around with especially with clothing.”
The T’s have received good reception from people, with the likes of comedian Okay Wasabi and performer Fella Gucci spotted rocking one. They’re a limited edition. “My problem with most T-shirt brands is that they get one design that works and they just abuse it until we see Small Street put the final nail in the coffin, and I don’t want that I want to always have new ideas and let the old stay in the past,” the illustrator says.
The T’s are not under any fashion line, but him as a graphic designer. He sees the work as an addition to his portfolio work and merchandise. “My mentality now, is if I don’t have clients I’ll be my own client.”
REMEMBER a few years ago when one fan jubilantly tweeted K.O a photo of himself wearing a Cash Time Life cap and the rapper responded with a sober “But bro, that’s a fake cap tho[sic].”
The bootlegging got so bad, that makeshift Cash Time clothing crept up in countries like Angola and Zambia, to the bewilderment of the owners of the brand. This was during the height of the Cash Time Life clique, when it had the likes of Maggz, Moozlie, Kid X and Ma-E on the stable. The aforementioned artists have since left Cash Time after business turned sour.
Last year K.O relaunched the clothing line and changed the name to DustnKompany and yesterday he got on Twitter to share news that the clothes are now also available at Studio 88, an underrated clothing outlet among youth.
“For the longest time me and Tsholo have had distribution limitations with my clothing line and now through blessings that led to other blessings, Studio 88 has just opened its doors for us,” exclaimed the rapper on social media. The clothes have been available at Joburg’s Fashion Kraal for a while now, but they were restricted to that only store, since their online store seems to be down.
Local fashion designers have to contend with international brands, breaking into the highly competitive industry and on top of that still have to raise funds for collections. Last year it was reported that the clothing industry contributes only 3.3% to the country’s GDP, while it deals with the shedding of jobs, cheap imports and closing down of factories.
But unlike the average designer, K.O’s brand is built around his music which is planted in the hearts and minds of South African youth. They don’t necessarily buy it because it’s the best thing on the market, but because it’s a K.O brand. The consumer feels closer to their favourite artist, by supporting their every cause.
The rapper recently released his album SR2, which scored him two nominations at this year’s South African Hip Hop Awards, in the Best Male and Album of the year category.
In the past few seasons, many fashion designers have proven that being narrow minded makes it hard to continue producing breath-taking collections. This comes after Hedi Slimane’s Celine debut collection, which needless to say, received so many backlashes. Leading fashion journalists and fashion critics didn’t have anything good to say about Slimane’s work and his take on Celine, a feminist brand, which has given a lot of women power and encouraged them to experiment with fashion.
The industry is still stuck up on the European fantasy world, forcing the same kinds of stereotypes to their customers. They also borrow from Africa and appropriate a lot of our cultural references. This is simple; we need to see more Black African designers to be at the helm of these brands.
Executives of these brands are very quick to quote Africa as their main inspiration, but they are shutting us out and take everything that is ours. The Loius Vuitton appointment of Virgil Abloh definitely made history; it spoke to the changes happening in the industry.
Virgil’s story is one of many; his debut collection had details of his personal experiences. It would be game changing to see an African leading a brand such as Celine etc. because they will be bringing something new, something that people can relate to, begin new ways of seeing Africa, attract new customers and reinvigorate the aesthetics of fashion.
The Business of fashion reports that “within a fashion industry, that touts itself as celebratory of difference, diversity and inclusion. Black design talent consistently remain, at best, marginalised and all too often plagued by systematic employment discrimination.”
If the conglomerates companies such as Kering and LVMH want to be inclusive and diverse, they need to look at our shorelines when they want to hire a new creative director to lead one of their brands. A lot of the big brands are booming in our retail industry and many of our consumers are buying because of the “hype” and wanting to be counted amongst the cool kids of fashion. But our fashion designers are not that supported when they release their collections, simply because they are not the Dior or Gucci standards.
For The Business of fashion “timing is everything, and the time has come for the industry to remedy the systematic marginalisation of black design talent”. If these designers were given a chance to have other options, they would change the fashion game. It so sad that fashion is still undermining Africa’s capabilities to be at their “level”.
The late Alexander McQueen became more successful after he was given a chance to creative direct for Givenchy, from his college days; he was supported and given a chance. Isabella Blow really believed in McQueen, she saw something that most people weren’t seeing. She dedicated her time to get McQueen to the right people; this attracted the fashion press to look at McQueen with a different eye.
Nowadays you don’t need to be French to design for a French House, you don’t need to be British to design for a British brand. Riccardo Tisci is a good example of this; he became a designer for Burberry, a very rooted British brand. Combined with his perfect eye for silhouettes, craftsmanship and subculture, he managed to build on where Christopher Bailey had left off.
These kinds of conversations are often avoided by the industry leaders; however, for fashion to continue growing, changing, diversifying and inclusive, certain things need to be addressed. People of colour deserve to be recognised in fashion, they deserve to be given the same opportunities.
If the fashion industry is struggling to see a way forward when it comes to things they can easily fix, then we may need to go back to the drawing board and demand the industry executives’ attention. They need to relook at their take on fashion, the industry is growing, and there are millions of young people waiting to see someone who looks like them to represent what they stand for and someone who will give them an opportunity to buy into their culture and inspiration.
MOABELO Nzimande is like the tyres he works with. He understands that with a bad attitude, he could never get anywhere just as a flat tyre wouldn’t take you far.
He’s the founder of manufacturing company, African Make which specialises in manufacturing furniture, solely using tyres. Sitting in a container big enough to house a fast food outlet, I chat with the energetic young man in his yard, in Tembisa.
“I wanted to communicate to Africans that, we are no longer just consumers of the world, but we’re giving something back,” says Nzimande. He studied Software Engineering and majored in Business Analysis. “I have an eye for spotting marketing opportunities and being a strategist, coming up with ways of creating something out of nothing.”
During his days at Vaal University, as a way of making money he would hire out hookahs at events, while simultaneously doing events management for campus gigs. When he couldn’t afford to hire a table and chair for his hookahs set-up, he turned to his creativity, creating his own using tyres. “I did research on how I could create my own furniture, I saw people using [gasoline] drums and other various material on the internet. Then I came across a simple design where they used tyres and a rope,” Nzimande says.
Seeing that, he bought himself working equipment-mind you, he had never worked with his hands to create anything. “I did my first design I had seen on the internet. The chair came out okay, compared to what I’m doing now. I was so proud, I had an urge to do better” he says.
From there his love affair with tyres grew, his curiosity pushing him to find out what other people in the world are creating with the material. “I looked at what China, Mozambique, Egypt and other places were doing and what level are they own. From there I started coming up with my own ideas by taking a bit of what they’re doing in China and other parts of the world and mixed it with what I want to accomplish.”
The hustler in him has always been art-inclined but was never the artist himself. He is one of the co-founders of a performance movement in the Vaal during his varsity days, called Back of the Kaff, which gave a platform to rappers and poets. “But I had nothing to give back [to the art]. I wished I could rap, be a poet or paint but I can’t. After creating the chairs, I felt like I was giving back to the creative world.”
After graduation in 2014 he joined an IT company as an intern. “During that time while doing training, you have a lot of free time, sometimes you go to work you’re doing nothing. That’s when I started doing research on how to register a company and I started reading books, and attending entrepreneurial seminars” says the lanky Nzimande.
He says the first book he picked up was Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter’s Rich Dad Poor Dad. “I was also inspired by the guy that wrote Goals, Brian Tracy, a friend in fact gave me his book. I met him when he was in South Africa, at one of his seminars. I even cried there when he was speaking because everything he was talking about I read in the book.”
Nzimande’s passion for his business was reaching boiling point, asking for sick days at work just to attend these and other seminars to better understand the mind of an entrepreneur. “Every time I got back home from work, it would be me and tyres. But it got to a point where I had more to do now at work.”
The pressure of striking a balance between the nine-to-five and the side hustle got to him, added to the pressure of not making as much sales as he would’ve hoped. “I couldn’t get clients and I had the feeling of being a failure. I let go of African Make and told myself I would focus on work.”
A few months during his hiatus from business, a colleague of his came running to him after she had seen an all-tyre furniture set at a company next door, during her lunch break. “She was like ‘woza manje’ and I get there and this company is having a braai, everyone sitting on the chairs. I asked who made them [the furniture] and they said some guy from the street. I was like ‘you’re a company and you bought this?'”
It felt like hell on earth for Nzimande, seeing someone being successful with something he thought wasn’t do-able. “That day, I got home put on my overall and started working on my tyres. I started planning and strategizing.”
He formally registered his company and created his website. He’d leave work late, sometimes sleeping there to print flyers when there was no one around. He was in super saiyan mode now, jotting down ideas of potential clients on his notebook en route to work and people would hire them for a day or two. Which brought in the some money and the needed confidence.
In that time, he built a relationship with the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA) who are a tyre depot. He managed to get a 100 tyres from REDISA. “With the number of tyres I got there, I took some of my salary and invested it into getting more material.”
In 2015 his application for the South African Innovative Summit was accepted and Nzimande got to display his work there. “I took everything I had and displayed it there. We created a sitting area at the summit, where people could chill and I got the opportunity to talk about the business.”
As they always say, you never know who’s watching so do your best. Lo behold, someone from First National Bank picked one of the flyers at the summit. “Next thing I got a call from FNB, they wanted to buy two double-seater for their rooftop. That’s when I roped in some of the guys from the hood, who painted Ndebele patterns on the tyres. They loved them,” Nzimande says.
Six months later the bank came knocking at his door again, this time they wanted more chairs for their event but asked Nzimande to donate them since they had already built some rapport with the first deal. They needed the 25 chairs and some tables for the weekend and were supposed to bring them back that Monday but whoever that was supposed to deliver them back got sick on the day.
“So the chairs were chilling there at bank city in Joburg. The employees sat on them during lunch and they were enjoying them. Management was like, ‘everyone’s liking these chairs, can’t we buy them?’ from just giving them for free, I sent them a quote of about 18K and they were like, ‘okay’ ” with his raspy voice, he says in laughter.
This made things simple for African Make to communicate better with corporates this while Nzimande was still holding down his job, but it was different. He became a sponge absorbing the knowledge of running a business from his boss as though he knew, in the back of his mind that he would leave the company at some point. “I made so many mistakes at work. I ended up feeling verbally abused by colleagues and work just became a toxic environment.”
Then a year ago, he did a mistake on a software they were doing for a big client. “When my bosses saw that, I was just tired. Tired of being wrong and just tired of being victimized. I just broke into tears in front of everyone in the office, I said to them ‘If it’s me, this is my exit’ I just took my stuff and left the office.”
Immediately after leaving the building, he felt liberated and at peace. “I remember I got home, I looked at the tyres and said ‘I’m home baby. I worked the whole night. Woke up the next morning and continued working-because I wasn’t going to work anymore.”
It took him a week to make his first chair, five years later and more skilled in the craft of making these, it only takes him just three hours to assemble one. “If we as entrepreneurs masinga qala ama business wethu ekasi, so our employees don’t have to climb taxies and trains to go to work-without the frustration of traffic, trains and waking up too early, we would go far. That’s why abo ngamla ba performa ka ngaka espanin.”
There’s nothing worse than planning an outfit in your head and realizing that the key component of your outfit looks like you just came from digging graves.
Call them what you will, whether it’s iBathu, Kicks, iSpova or whether it’s the classic Takkies. We all love our shoes and let’s admit it, keeping them clean isn’t the easiest thing to do.
It’s a matter of how time consuming the effort of washing them is. But with the new age aesthetic that come with shoes there’s techniques and products that comes with keeping your kicks fresh.
Enter Drop Shoe, the future of premium footwear hygiene. Founded in 2017 by Lethabo Komane in Tembisa, after having washed his older brother’s sneakers over the years and developing a clientele with his brother’s friends Komane saw a gap in an already existing market. Thus Drop Shoes was born and has since grown from strength to strength with only under 2 years in existence.
With limited resources, his passion for business and together with his homies Smash, Banele and Tebza footwear hygiene in Tembisa found a home in Drop Shoe. The guys have really changed the narrative of self employment in the township by not only employing guys from their community but also having young interns during school holidays to teach entrepreneurship to teens.
Drop Shoe has since grown from just a sneaker cleaning outlet to a premium clientele service provider at an affordable price. With the most beautiful and friendly service that makes you feel at home and at ease with leaving your kicks. They also offer shoe repair, backpack and cap washing. With their impeccable work ethic and professionalism Drop Shoe‘s growth potential is exponential. So show your support to the homies and enter them at parties with fresh clean kicks.