The award-winning men’s fashion designer on the business of fashion and dressing up no less than the South African president.
1. Who you would like to dress and why?
I would like to dress our [South Africa’s] head of state Cyril Ramaphosa; that would be really good on my CV. But not only that, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. When you look at ministers and presidents, they look simple yet sophisticated. What people don’t realize is the most simple outfits are the most difficult to make. You can’t over-accessorize, you just can’t over-design. You have to keep it very clean and minimalistic and also in harmony with the person’s character…So I am ready for that challenge.
2. As a designer, when is the right time to start expanding to retail?
As designers, we all have different business strategies. What works for one designer does not necessarily work for the other. But the best time to start is when as you fully understand the business of fashion and have completed your internship. The one thing I always advise upcoming designers is to not be too much in a hurry to establish their brand, because you will end up being an overnight sensation.
3. What does it take to build a brand like Palse Homme?
Blood, sweat and water from the moon. It’s a long journey that does not have milestones in between, the reason I say that is that it’s like running a marathon that does not have a finish line. You have to strive to get somewhere and the day you get there, that is when you get to retire.
4. How do you stay disciplined with your money?
I am very prudent when it comes to my finances. As an entrepreneur, you cannot do it all by yourself… so I have outsourced my public relations and finance services to the experts.
5. What is your most expensive indulgence?
Sunglasses. I once spent R6,000 ($450) on them. I am a hoarder of good sunglasses; I don’t even know how many pairs I have.
6. What is the biggest challenge you have faced in the fashion industry?
It’s very difficult for designers to attract potential investors. People don’t understand that to be able to showcase my designs during fashion week, it means we have to pay to be part of fashion week, most importantly, we have to raise capital, and the overheads become extremely insane because you have to come up with money to be able to put together your collection. Simultaneously, when you do that, you are even unable to take orders. You are stressing about that fashion week night that will take only five to 10 minutes. Mind you, while you are working on that, you have overheads like salaries and rent.
7. What do you spend your money on?
Traveling! I always say to people I enjoy being out of the city and the country. There is something about traveling that just shifts your mind-set and makes you more appreciative of what you have back home [South Africa]…You realize that we have it all, in terms of food to the most amazing hotels; the energy people exude is phenomenal. We live in a very beautiful country.
Quarantine Reflections: How Businesses Must Lead From The Heart Now
Bisila Bokoko, born in the Equatorial Guinea, raised in Spain and now resident in New York as a businesswoman, communications consultant and motivational speaker, is a global citizen like no other.
Straddling these regions for her wine and sports retail businesses and a library project she is spearheading in Senegal, Bokoko has been on self-quarantine for the last four weeks in her Manhattan apartment, after a recent work trip to Spain.
Here, she sheds light on the Covid-19 crisis that she says has made her more reflective of how she needs to rethink her businesses. “It is an extremely confusing and challenging time with such a huge impact on everything,” she says. “Life is never going to be the same again.”
The coronavirus outbreak has changed the way we eat, shop and consume, she adds, with the most dramatic change happening in retail, because of changing values and new priorities.
“The center is going to be the human being, and the wellbeing of the human,” says Bokoko. “And this will not be from an individual perspective, but in relation to each other. We have to be a more collaborative economy, because how we are, will affect everyone else. As leadership, we now need to lead from the heart.”
In this FORBES AFRICA interview, Bokoko speaks to Managing Editor Renuka Methil, also about how the current crisis will throw up new opportunities for local African art and the fashion business.
‘The One Thing I Want To Do Before I Die’
Thembani Biyam was appointed Head of Strategy & Monetisation for OLX South Africa when he was only 28. Now, as the Head of Growth at Orderin, one of the top three online food delivery companies in South Africa, he is responsible for strategic projects, product, design and growth marketing. He speaks about his best and worst investment experience.
What do you splurge on?
Definitely food; it’s the way to my heart. Then travel. Then tech toys, mostly photography and videography stuff like drones and stabilizer sticks for shooting vlogs. I love vlogging and editing for fun.
What has your worst investment blunder been?
My best and worst experience was investing in cryptocurrency. I got in late but bought some Bitcoin and Ethereum, and my investment grew about 350% in six months. Problem is, it crashed real quickly too. I got a lot of it out in time but lost a lot of it as well.
If you had to work but didn’t need the money, what would you choose to do?
Develop high school, university and professional basketball in South Africa to, at least, the European level. It’s the one thing I want to do before I die. I was an aspiring basketball player in high school but there were no proper structures in place to fully develop and the options for me to play professionally didn’t exist. I want that for my kids.
Where do you not mind waiting?
At home. If I am out in the world, I hate waiting for anything.
Fast food or home cooking?
Home cooking anytime. But fast food delivery every now and then doesn’t hurt (especially if it’s from Orderin).
Do you own anything you consider priceless?
Nothing material. More memories and perspectives.
Should people work for money or fulfilment?
Both. We all have to eat and do nice things, right? Those things cost hard-earned [money]. I would say, if you can continually optimize your career towards work that provides a combination of both, but increasingly nearing fulfilment versus money, that would be a win.
READ MORE | ‘Worth Billions and Millions‘
What kind of debt is okay?
The type that is income generating is the ‘most’ okay. Robert Kiyosaki talks about debt that generates income like property loans, business loans, and even credit card used for positive income-generating activities. Then, there are scenarios where you may really need debt to bail you out, but hopefully, you have savings and liquid investments for that. Then, there is a grey area around things like cars, phones etc. For this category, I would say, just make sure you can afford it from your income.
Do you follow a strict budget?
I do my absolute best to. There are some ‘treat yourself’ months sprinkled in there.
Would you rather never be able to express yourself accurately or always have to say the exact truth?
I always have to say the exact truth. A world of never being able to be a little colorful and fun in expressing myself would be a dark world.
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