African Armani

BY Sonwabo Macingwana 5 MINUTE READ
Giving up on internal auditing, one of the highest paying careers, to study fashion could have been a futile pursuit of happiness, but the decision paid off for fashion designer and style influencer David Tlale when he launched his own label 16 years ago, and has to date reached a global presence. 
Tlale chats to Fast Company South Africa about his journey building an innovative brand.
What was school like for young 
David Tlale? 
I was raised in Vosloorus in the East Rand in Johannesburg by a single mom. I studied at Dithomo Primary School and finished high school at Thuto Lesedi Secondary School. I later enrolled myself at Setlogelo Technikon, which is now better known as the Tshwane University, where I studied internal auditing. I dropped out seven months into my auditing classes because I hated it, and decided to study fashion at Waal University. 
Where did your interest in fashion start?
I used to see some students on campus all dressed in grunge and very interesting fashion whilst studying auditing. I approached one of them and asked him about the clothes he was wearing and he happened to be studying fashion. From there on I went to visit fashion students in their classrooms to see what they were doing and I enjoyed it from day one. It was an amazing first impression and I thought this is actually what I would like to study.
Can you tell us more about your new show THE INTERN and how it came about?
The Intern by David Tlale is a programme I conceptualised in 2012. It started in KwaZulu-Natal and I later ran it as a competition in Gauteng before it gained TV attention. The Intern is mostly focused on empowering young people and young designers who want to step up from being graduate students and get ready for the industry. Our main focus is to make sure that we transfer skills and give them the knowledge about the ins and outs of the fashion industry, thus we partner with people like FP&M Seta who are making this programme possible. 
Cricket South Africa announced you as one of the ambassador for the 2018 PinkFriday One Day International between the Proteas and India that took place in February, how did this initiative come about? 
Cricket South Africa announced me as one of the ambassadors after we agreed on collaboration between CSA and my brand David Tlale. I was keen when they approached me. The task was to bring fashion flair into the whole cricket seen and to make sure it was much more appealing to fashionistas, celebrities, the cricket lovers as well as the players. I found this very interesting. 
What’s the recipe for a successful fashion show or collection?
It is the narrative, the colours, how you take your audiences on a journey and how you tell them about your influences to get their full attention with a narrative that evokes a thought process. Without a proper narrative you can easily get lost in translation. 
What is your creative process?
My creative process varies from time to time. Sometimes I get my inspiration when I am travelling, listening to music, by types of fabric, patterns, art galleries or even by walking down the streets in Johannesburg or anywhere in the world. I don’t have a manual, it’s almost an organic process.
You are a well respected designer in Africa and across the globe, what would you consider as your ultimate goal?
Our ultimate goal as a brand is to become a global one that is made in South Africa for the global market. To make sure that we learn and walk in the footsteps of great brands like Gucci, and to become a brand that’s available on a global scale.
What would you consider as your most notable accomplishment?
Our most notable accomplishment has been building a brand in South Africa, and this year we are celebrating 16 years in the industry and we are still going strong. The fact that we are still standing, growing and are now starting to supply retail stores like Edgars, Spree and Luminance is an accomplishment. 
We are also starting to do much more work in the continent like in Lagos in Ghana, Cote De’vore, Paris, Dubai and New York. We feel like we are right at the beginning of our journey. The 16 years in the industry have brought some of the brightest and insightful experience.
What are your thoughts on South Africa’s fashion and textile industry?
I believe the country’s fashion and textile industry is growing and we are in a space where we learn to understand the business side of fashion. In the past, we used to make clothes without the business sense, but now we are starting to understand that it goes beyond putting together a collection and sales are one of the important aspects of the business. Our industry is producing and competing at a global stage – internationally and locally – and our products are proudly made in South Africa and tell the story of what South Africa is about.
What can we expect from David Tlale in the near future, any upcoming exhibition or collection?
What you can expect from our brand is product availability nationwide and some showcases locally and internationally. We are launching a few new brands, the first being bridal collections. The collections will be mostly focused on the global market as our main target audience, and will be in line with the latest trends so that people – and the world – can start consuming the brand David Tlale.
As an award-winning fashion designer and style influencer, what advice would you give to young aspiring fashion designers and fashion houses?
Education is key. Young aspiring designers must go to school and become educated, learn more and have knowledge of the career path. One needs to be well equipped with skills and knowledge before they get into the industry and know exactly what they are bringing to the table. 
Designers do not copy or repeat what other designers are doing, whether locally or internationally. You have to make sure that you bring your A-game and make sure you have a distinct signature. 
Look at the likes of MaXhosa, Thula Sindi, and the Gavin Rajah’s, you can tell that we have a particular signature. It is important for aspiring fashion designer to do that as well, and be willing to learn and be willing to work hard because the industry is not for the faint hearted.
What does David Tlale want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for my legacy and how I have touched and changed people’s lives or perceptions about the fashion industry. And to be remembered as an African child who made it possible to take it locally and internationally. 
30 Second Bio
David Tlale
Favourite Quote
“Life is a journey celebrated in style.”
Favourite Book
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Favourite Destination
Mumbai, India
Favourite City
Favourite Tech Gadget
My phone
Ideal Day
I don’t have that, each day is as different as the next
How do you unwind and relax
Reading, dining and listening to good music
Biggest inspiration
Giorgio Armani 
Best moment in your life
When I decided to quit auditing and study fashion design

Diamonds still a viable investment commodity

BY Sonwabo Macingwana 4 MINUTE READ
Shimansky was only two years old when he set sail for the first time on a trip with his dad who was always traveling, as his job as sea captain obliged him to do so. After completing high school and his service in the Israeli army, Shimansky travelled to Japan where he sold diamonds for two years. It was at that point where he learned advance optics and the art of shaping light in a diamond from every angle. 
In 1991 he came to South Africa and took up a Gemology course while also selling handcrafted jewellery on a market in Durban and later launched his first standalone Shimansky Jewellery store.  
Shimansky Jewelers is a clean, classic, timeless and contemporary jewellery store, with creations that are designed to celebrate the special moments in one’s life. These moments can honour an engagement, an anniversary, a birthday or spoiling a loved one.
“At Shimansky, each piece has a strong emotional value attached to it for both the buyer and the receiver; and we believe the emotional value far surpasses the monetary value in Rands or Dollars.
What sets Shimansky apart from their competitors, is the rare privilege of a license to buy and polish rough diamonds, directly from South African mines. This ensures that only the finest diamonds are used for Shimansky’s creations.
Every step in a Shimansky design; the cutting, polishing, and manufacturing, is managed in-house to ensure that each piece of designer diamond and tanzanite jewellery is completed with the pursuit of excellence. Perfection takes time, and we don’t rush to take a diamond’s journey to the very end” says Shimansky.
How did you get into business?
My business journey started with a visit to my parents who lived in Durban. It was there that I met the woman who became my wife. The seed to start a small jewellery business was planted and instantly we decided to stay in the coastal city. 
Our business was simple; we made silver jewellery and sold it from a little barrow. Our success there was unimaginable, from a little business in a flea market, to our first store. 
One vivid memory I have of those early days – soon after the launch of our store, we had no money for a security alarm system and I actually slept behind the desk to safeguard the store. It feels like just yesterday.
What are your thoughts on SA Diamond Industry?
Investing in diamonds offer the best value and return on investment for an investor, especially when considering its size and the size to value ratio. Diamonds are considered a portable, hard asset investment with no holding maintenance cost. 
What sets it apart from other investments – diamonds can be sold anywhere in the world to maximise its value, especially in places where there’s a high demand for the stones. To be in a good investment position, buy smart in the beginning, as buying the wrong diamond will not be considered an investment diamond at all. 
How can diamond investment benefit the SA economy?
Diamond investment is borderless and South Africa can benefit greatly by honing in on diamond polishing and exporting. This is a specialized skill and provided it’s used correctly, can contribute largely to job creation and foreign investment for our country. 
For local and potential South Africans investors, diamond investing can be used as a great tool to safeguard him/her from the Rand depreciation and of course adds to a diversified investment portfolio. 
Diamonds are Africa’s most glittering commodity but they haven’t had a steady market growth in South Africa over the years. Why invest in a struggling industry?  
I don’t agree that this is a struggling industry, in fact diamonds are gaining popularity all over the world, especially in the USA where there’s an overwhelming demand for supreme quality diamonds. 
How lucrative is Diamond manufacturing as a business?
This has become such a lucrative industry. And as mentioned above, diamonds are gaining popularity the world over, mainly as a direct result of the increase in wealth it’s brought and continues to bring to Asia. As previously mentioned too, in the USA specifically, we’ve also found that there’s been an overwhelming demand for top quality diamonds. More people are favoring this investment, along with art, as there is no exchange of cash.
Knowledge and experience combine with the latest technology are critical to having a profitable diamond cutting and polishing business combine with capital and marketing abilities.
What are the pros and cons of being in SA’s diamond industry?
Pros: South Africa is a diamond producing country, the closer we are to the source the better the selection and value. 
Cons: Far too much red tape from government’s side, as well as being so far (geographically) from the main markets like the USA and Asia. 
How transparent are the process from a behind the scenes perspective in production of raw diamond excavation (mining), manufacturing and moulding to consumption?  
Every step is recorded from start to finish, which assures integrity and transparency in our manufacturing process and is in-line with the customer expectations.
 Where do you see the future of SA’s diamond industry in a few years to come?
Unless there are changes in policy and capital, as well as market access, there won’t be much change. Some countries like India, Israel and Belgium are great supporters of the diamond industry, which we appreciate.