Connect with us

Woman

From Packing Scrap To Dressing Up Alek Wek

mm

Published

on

Khothatso Laurence Tsotetsi’s office in South Africa’s capital city Pretoria, is a profusion of pink – a beaded pink flamingo stands tall on his desk that’s draped in a pink table cloth; also here are grey couches with pink patterns and a pink mat adorning the floor.

His spacious studio with multiple rooms is just the setting for our photoshoot and interview.

Millennial fashion designer Tsotetsi has made a name for himself in South Africa’s fashion industry with his sophisticated, elegant pieces for women particular about their look, and has had his creations showcased at a number of fashion weeks.

Born in Soweto, a township in the southwest of Johannesburg, in 1988, just before the apartheid era ended in South Africa, Tsotetsi moved around a lot as a child.

READ MORE: From Football To Fashion

“My father was a politician, that’s why we moved from one place to another. We moved from Soweto to the Free State [a province in South Africa]; we lived in the Vaal for some time until I eventually moved to Pretoria in 2009, and since then I’ve been practicing from here.”

As a young boy, he says, his behaviour was peculiar compared to other boys his age. Where they played football, he played with fabric.

He was interested in dress designing and started with some needlework; all this evolved in high school when he figured out that designing was what he wanted to pursue. In tertiary school, Tsotetsi started showcasing at fashion weeks every season.

After graduating with a BTech degree in 2012, and with a National Diploma in Fashion in 2013 from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), he lectured on construction, patterns and creative design at TUT for a few years.

By then, he was already involved in the eponymous business he had started in 2012. Tsotetsi KL, his brand, was doing well.

“2012 was when I got my big break at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Johannesburg when African Fashion International (AFI) brought Alek Wek to walk for my show; from there, I did Black Fashion Week Paris,” he recalls.

This meant hard work, sacrifices and the relentless pursuit of his passion.

READ MORE: The Sweet and Fashionable Life Of Being Your Own Boss

As an assistant, Tsotetsi packed scraps of fabric for South African fashion mogul Clive Rundle for six weeks, coordinating scraps by color and fabric. Tsotetsi knows it as Rundle’s aesthetic. Rundle has sold womenswear for decades and showcased his work on ramps across the world.

“I taught art and design at a high school in the Vaal for a month and on the weekends, I would work at Clive Rundle’s; after that month, I worked permanently every day at his Johannesburg studio in the [central] business district. That’s when I started helping with the clothing and the shows, and then I worked with David Tlale in 2014 under a mentorship program, the AFI Next Generation,” says Tsotetsi.

The young designer had to shadow famed South African designer Tlale for three months before Tlale’s first New York Fashion Week show.

From both designers, Tsotetsi learned a lot and infused it with his own method, understanding the business side of fashion and not just the creative aspects. He developed a clientele base and streamlined his business into what it is today.

Tsotetsi in his spacious offices with model, Fath Mncube. Photograph by Motlabana Monnakgotla

Over the years, he has learned a great deal and gained a lot of experience in the industry, showcasing his creations yet constantly questioning himself about what is more important: money, fame or social media likes.

“Still, why showcase,” he asks.

“As soon as it’s a company, it’s an entity with different principles: human resources, finance, graphics, photography and all of that, but as a small business, you cannot afford those services, you have to step in as the owner and play those different roles, ask for favors, manipulate people, lie, and do all of those things. So for you to be able to maintain the business, you need to be making money and paying staff. Those are the dynamics that have been in place from 2014 until 2018.”

In the eyes of the young creative designer, growth meant making money.

Among many other rich and famous names, Tsotetsi has dressed the likes of Hulisani Ravele, a radio personality and former YoTV presenter; Precious Moloi-Motsepe, a fashion entrepreneur and philanthropist, who runs the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week; and Rorisang Thandekiso, a South African actress, presenter and musician.

“I know Khothatso from high school, so he’s been making me stuff since but my real first was my first SAMAs [South African Music Awards] in 2010, it was amazing and futuristic. This year, I’m at the SAMAs in June doing the red carpet and presenting an award; he’ll be dressing me for both. We did the SAFTAs [South African Film and Television Awards] together. That dress took everybody by storm, and everybody absolutely loved it. It was just beautiful to look at people respond to it,” says Thandekiso.

Tsotetsi KL caters for a market that is distinctively chic and sophisticated.

“It is women that are of a peculiar kind who want to portray classiness in an elegant way. They want to stand out, they have exaggerated style and thoughts and they are one in zero,” says Tsotetsi.

The brand does bespoke and high-end garments and is currently working with Luminance, a fashion and lifestyle concept store present in the upscale Hyde Park Corner mall in north Johannesburg.

Faith Mncube of Fabulousdotcom Models. Photograph by Motlabana Monnakgotla.

The garments seen in the photos are from the 2014 fashion weeks from different seasons. Tsotetsi’s favorite is a ruffle dress.

“It was a highly publicised look from the SAMAs’ [edition] 21. It was a dress that Kelly Khumalo [South African singer, actress and dancer] wore and it was one of its kind at the time; it was bigger than what it is in the image. It was 180 meters before it was tailored. It is one iconic look that we photographed for the feature,” he says.

Tsotetsi KL will be turning six years old in August and is slated to have a spectacular fashion show for Women’s Month, observed in South Africa every year that month. Tsotetsi employs four permanent staff and three interns. They are all hard at work in his studio preparing the next line.

For the lad from Soweto obsessed with needlework, he has his work cut out for him.

Interview

Why We Need ‘Hard Cash In The Economy’

Published

on

Busi Mabuza, the Chairperson of the Board of the Industrial Development Corporation, on the BRICS summit and why we need to start talking as an African bloc.

(more…)

Continue Reading

Focus

The Heroes Among Us

mm

Published

on

Heroes exist in history, on celluloid, in pop culture or in these digital times, at the forefront of technology. These are the mighty who shine on the front pages of newspapers, as the paradigms of victory and virtue. But every day in public life, surrounding us are some of the real stars, the nameless, the faceless we don’t recognize or celebrate. In the pages that follow, we look at some of them, exploring the exemplary work they do, from the war zones to your neighborhood streets. They are not flawless, they are not infallible, but they are heroes.

(more…)

Continue Reading

Entrepreneurs

The Ghanaian Who Brought HR Corporate America To Ghana

mm

Published

on

Ghana is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies this year, according to the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the IMF. Its projected growth in 2018 is between 8.3-8.9%.

The Ghanaian workforce is young, with 57% of the population under the age of 25. This means millions of new graduates enter the workforce each year. One woman who understands the struggle that awaits this unsuspecting group in corporate Ghana is Human Resources (HR) entrepreneur, Rita Kusi.

Kusi is the founder and CEO of Keeping “U” Simply Intact (KUSI) Consulting, a marketing, training and recruiting company based in the United States (US) and in Ghana. She is also the Managing Director of threesixtyGh, a social enterprise company with an online presence showcasing innovative ventures in Ghana and the people behind them.

Born in Bolga, Northern Ghana, Kusi’s family gained access to the US through the US Visa Lottery in the early 80s. The family relocated to the US in 1991 where Kusi remained until 2013. And that is also where she amassed a wealth of experience working in several sectors.

READ MORE: Cracking the Code and Bridging The Gender Gap

After college, Kusi worked a number of temporary jobs, from telemarketing in Atlanta to door-to-door sales in Maryland. She even tried her hands at customer services and working in cafes.

“I think for me having held all these jobs opened my eyes and I realized especially what I wanted to do in corporate America,” says Kusi.

All these experiences came together when she applied for a new role as HR assistant. When she did not hear back from the company regarding her application, Kusi took the initiative and called the hiring manager.

“So my dad told me to call and get feedback and as I called my CV happened to be in front of the hiring manager and he invited me in for the interview. I knew nothing about HR but I was just really looking for a job and I ended up getting that job and it was the longest I ever stayed at any job so that was a sign,” says Kusi.

She had finally found her calling in HR but it was not until a nostalgic visit back home that she would merge all her US experience together, ushering in a new life as an entrepreneur.

There were no real training programs at the time focused on improving the quality of customer service in Ghana. Kusi seized the opportunity to provide quality HR training programs, which she hoped organizations would pay for. And they did. This was the birth of Kusi Consulting.

From training services, the company has morphed its offerings into recruitment services and Kusi is now diversifying into skills-training as well as business process outsourcing, where the company handles the pay roll function for other corporate clients. Her timing couldn’t be more perfect. Hiring the right people is critical for companies to reduce employee attrition and enhance returns from HR. Companies face challenges in accurately perceiving and assessing an employee’s quality attributes prior to hiring that employee. This problem is more pronounced in African economies, which involves novices who do not have prior work records attesting to their raw skills, learning abilities and motivation. And this is where Kusi comes in.

READ MORE: Remembering A Corporate Legend

She believes a specialist HR function is imperative in every organization to ensure maximum output by each employee. However, she has had some difficulty convincing corporate Ghana.

“It has been challenging operating here especially being a female because it is literally a man’s world and in this country, it’s all about who you know… There is that challenge of how do I make myself look older and more respected?” she says.

But ever resilient, Kusi refuses to back down. She hopes to create her own temp agency where she has skilled staff inhouse which she can outsource on demand to other companies. Her newly-formed team is just as passionate about the business and with that focus, she is rebranding her company to be a leader in HR not only in Ghana but across Africa.

Continue Reading

Trending