Top African designer David Tlale ditched his accounting degree for fashion and he has not looked back. Renowned for his bold designs and showmanship, David Tlale is one of South Africa’s top designers. He is not only showcasing but also producing this year’s Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards (ASFAs). But what makes this man stand out?
Fashion found David Tlale as it was the last thing on his mind when he joined Tshwane University of Technology to study internal auditing in 1993. While at campus, Tlale made friends with fashion design students and fell in love with what they were doing. Immediately he knew fashion was his calling, he dropped out in the first semester, choosing to pursue a fashion degree.
He graduated from Vaal University of Technology four years later but was to wait another four years for his big break, which came at the South African Fashion Week in 2002. He won the Elle New Talent Award and the recognition paved way for launching his own label the following year. From then on, it was a one way road to the top and he attained international recognition at the prestigious Paris Fashion Week in 2007, where he was selected as one of four South African designers to showcase.
“Tlale has always pushed the boundaries with his daring approach and focus on striking silhouettes — a far cry from the more cautious South African designers of previous generations. His expert craftsmanship and attention to detail, in an array of bold yet elegant designs, has captured the imagination of fashionistas and celebrities around the world,” The Culture Trip writes about him.
In 2010, Tlale was part of an African collective that showcased at the New York Fashion week. His works stood out, leading to a call up to showcase solo at the event in 2012.
Tlale presented a daring yet feminine Ready-to-Wear Fall range, which featured lots of leather, sheer fabrics and gold embellishments. The collection earned Tlale positive reviews from critics and fans alike, affirming his position as a world-class designer. Since then, Tlale has showcased a further five successful collections at New York Fashion Week.
Tlale’s fashion house designs both women’s and menswear, as well as couture and bridal wear.
Over the years, he has proved he is a design force to be reckoned with, having won numerous accolades and nominations. November 2014 was particularly a good month for the designer when he was awarded Designer of the Year at the African Diaspora Awards held in New York City, and also the African Icon of Hope award in Nigeria. In the same month, he made the global list of 100 Most Inspiring Africans in London-based New African Magazine, and was also featured in TIME magazine as one of the designers shaping Africa’s fashion landscape.
In addition to his many accolades, Tlale has worked with several local and international brands, most recently with global underwear brand Jockey, for whom he designed a capsule collection.
In 2015, Tlale headlined the 2015 BET Awards Experience, where he showcased a capsule collection in addition to presenting an award, and in 2016 he made the BET A-List as South Africa’s Style Icon.
He has also inked several endorsement deals, including an African brand ambassador for Ciroc, the same brand headlining the sponsorship for this year’s Asfas.
Tlale has also been involved in philanthropic work. He was an ambassador for the Change-4-Ever Campaign, an initiative that aims to alleviate poverty in South Africa, and has also lent his services to the United Colors of Fashion mentoring programme for young designers.
Tlale is also behind the hit South African show, The Intern by David Tlale. The show gives budding SA designers an opportunity to showcase their talent and the winner of the first season that wrapped up in October, Kuena Moshoeshoe, won a Mercedes Benz CLA, an opportunity to work with Tlale for a year, R200,000 (about Shs53.2m) and equipment worth R250,000 (about Shs66.5m). The Intern will also showcase at tomorrow’s Asfas.
Tlale at the ASFAs
After a show-stopping showcase at last year’s awards, Tlale will not only showcase but also produce this year’s show to give it a truly world class feel.