David Tlale: Business advice from the catwalk

South African fashion designer David Tlale talks about how he was thrust into the business side of fashion.

At Design Indaba Expo 2015, David Tlale declared that he prefers silk chiffon to denim. He’s built his eponymous brand on a luxe, lavish aesthetic with strong impact. But developing a design personality is only one part of becoming a fashion designer, he knows; the other is being a businessman.

“I never planned to become a businessman,” he says in this interview with Design Indaba. “I now think beyond being a designer and think about understanding the business of fashion.”

When he started out, Tlale says, he “fell into becoming a businessman because I though ‘Ah, I just want to make beautiful clothes’”. But he soon realised that beautiful clothes alone wouldn’t make the cut – you also have to sell.

He thinks South African designers have become more commercially minded. It’s not enough to parade your work down the runway if you’re not equipped to take business orders afterwards.

“I want to showcase and make sure the product is available and also tell a beautiful story about South Africa because I believe as South African designers we have so much to offer to the world,” he says.

Tlale’s latest collection, titled Feminine Allure, was first debuted at New York Fashion Week in September 2014 and showcased for the first time on South African soil at Design Indaba Expo 2015 in collaboration with the Cape Town Fashion Council.