I have, on numerous occasions, engaged Thula Sindi on Fashion topics: our likes, dislikes, emerging trends and general fashion influences and the influential. Naturally, I had to have a chat with him - just before Fashion Week commences – about his collection; “ A Woman of Consequences - part 2” (at Sandton Convention Centre on the the 3rd of July) and his business ethos.
The classically trained fashion designer comes across as a shy lad who prefers being in his studio sculpting perfect pieces to grace the “modern working woman” and his power-walk-like stride down the ramp for his final bow reiterates this. If I had half his skill, I would take a yester-season’s high knee, shoulders back sashay down the ramp – that’s just the flamboyant me I guess, LOL! (Heck, why not?) Behind this brand is a sound-minded young man with a business, quality and design-focused mind-set and these are some of the pillars upon which his brand are built on.
Thula, as with most designers before a show, shied away from revealing too much about his upcoming s/s 2010 collection but he indulged me on some of the aesthetics we should expect. “I have a soft spot for Leopard and Zebra prints, particularly this season but I am careful to not stray into the realm of cliché and artifice,” was his opening line when asked about his “African story” aesthetics. He expatiated by echoing my sentiments on design and “African-ness” when it comes to design aesthetics when using animal prints: it’s a designer’s responsibility to reimagine, reinvent and propose attractive options free of the perceived African Narrative.
He also proposed a slight aversion to following global trends. Noted that it may be built in a designer’s DNA to want to adhere to global trends but he prefers to use a more practical approach than to mass-market compete. I oppose this statement because global trends, in the simplest explanation, are adhered to to perhaps push sales? Call it a gimmick, if you will, but I truly believe a business – which is what a fashion label ultimately is - is not an isolated entity, it’s part of a global web of which each thread, though identical to the next, plays an intricate role in constructing the entire web which, when all orchestrated well , will lead to a vertical growth of the industry in general.
He elaborates on how his design strategy is influenced by the two “F’s” (no, THAT one is not one of them, LOL): Feeling and Figures. He relies on his vision through intuition and the denotation of sale history. This left me shocked slightly because I am not one who subscribes to the “tried and tested” method of doing things, especially in an industry which is commonly accepted as being unstable (with respect to change). But the truth is, as he pointed out, Fashion is just an illusion of constant change – it’s really just a slow and traditional industry where trends merely spice-up long existing choices. I told you guys he’s a thinker!
Thula Sindi, the man himself, rarely features in media (think about it!)– all by choice -, which made me think what his marketing strategies are given the success of his label. The most obvious and impactful advertising that he uses are the fashion weeks: “The runway is still the most dynamic way to project my vision in its purest form… 15 minutes to convince buyers, media and customers; it’s a sales pitch powerpoint presentations can’t compete [with].” He also prefers word of mouth as people warm up to referrals better than PR and advertising. He also gives credit to good relationships with some of his well known clients with media access which, inevitably, assists in building a brand – advertising serves to defend the PR efforts of building a brand. Fashion Editorials in local magazines are also priceless and validate his work as a designer – but the product is the most important thing.
I had to let the man get back to finalizing his collection – no one appreciates loose thread mistakes on the ramp –so I had to ask him about his brand expansion initiatives (as a final question)– showing overseas, exporting his clothes – to which he responded by pointing out that African Fashion, generally speaking, has important objectives which include intra-Africa trading. Exporting beyond African shores is far into the future for his brand and at the moment, he’s “adding one stockiest at a time until [he] reaches far away markets” because he wants an organic business growth as this is a career and not a get-rich-quick scheme, TRUE!
Well! Those are the thoughts of a complex, devoted creative man who spearheads a steadily growing business. His clothes currently retail at “The Wardrobe” in Parkhurst (4thAvenue)- Johannesburg and Fizz in East London.