Celebrations are always better when you share them. This is why as we celebrate our 10-year anniversary we simply had to honour fellow Afropolitan Thula Sindi, of the eponymous women’s wear brand that is all elegance and style, as his journey has also hit the decade mark!
He spoke to The Afropolitan about his dreams for his hometown, going into retail and empowering a future generations.
Sindi is a 32-year-old award-winning designer who got his break, straight out of the London International School of Fashion, when he was employed as head designer at Vlisco, a Dutch textile company, in 2005. His beginnings point to where his sights were all along: while he acquired design experience at both Vlisco and Gavin Rajah, he also interned in fashion buying at Woolworths. His eyes were always set on more than just the design aspect of fashion.
The Thula Sindi brand was born with a different kind of fashion in mind. Fashion for the sophisticated women who live full lives and need their clothes to make sense in each facet of those lives. The lines are always luxurious but affordable. The designs are always creative and forward-thinking but always ready-to-wear. Thula Sindi – the brand – is the designer brand for women who want to invest in well-priced, quality pieces for their wardrobes. The Thula Sindi woman is defined as having “an appreciation for well-made, intelligently designed and reasonably priced clothing.”
While the Thula Sindi woman understands fashion and appreciates beautiful designs her fashion has to be functional and wearable. While trends are an important part of fashion, Sindi offers elegance, function and classic style to go with those trends.
What has been the driving force for you to get into the retail end of things?
I have always had it in my mind that if I were going to be in the fashion business, I would go in as an entrepreneur. I knew I had to own the entire value chain, from creating the design to manufacturing and distributing it. Owning my business and my destiny is the force that drives me! This has led to me opening my own stores and having control of those outlets. It has not been an easy road, I can tell you, but we are doing it alone a step at a time. Fortunately, we have very strong sales – people are buying and people are supporting our brand, which is amazing!
Is that where the future of African design is headed – designers thinking beyond a beautiful design and a great show at Fashion Week?
Yes, indeed and most designers are already in that mindset. Fashion is a very difficult cut-throat industry and like everyone else we need to make money so we can put food on our table. Most designers are entrepreneurs; it’s just some are a more in the public eye than others. We all think beyond the design and the fashion show and try to find innovative ways to get to the customer, engage with them and get a part of the big market that is clothing, textiles and fashion.
Why did you decide to open a store in Klerksdorp where most would have said Sandton City or Cape Town?
My hometown is in the North West province and its central location makes it a great place to open a store – it’s close to Potchefstroom, Mafikeng, Rustenburg and on the way to Kimberley in the Northern Cape so there is a lot of foot traffic. But there are other important reasons that led me to open a store in my hometown. Firstly, I wanted to give back and showcase what I do and where I came from. Secondly, it made sense logistically as I’ve already got a small clothing factory that I opened in Klerksdorp. Thirdly, I am dedicated to reigniting economic activity in the province and so I’m going to be creating a lot of my garments there. That’s something that’s really close to my heart. It makes economic sense. It’s a calculated risk and already we are seeing strong support.
Cape Town would have been a terrible place to open a store because, in my opinion, people don’t care enough about clothes really. Well, not the kind of clothes that I make anyway [laughs] so it would be the last place I’d open up a store.
What are your dreams for the next 10 years?
More retail stores and trying to bring along other designers. I think I have a good idea of how one can grow a fashion business and I would really like to support younger designers as well. There are some really talented people out there and I would like to create a structure for them to flourish. While I want to see my business doing great, I really want to see all black businesses doing great things. We need a template for that in this country and I’m trying to create that template through owning the entire value chain even though it is very, very difficult.
That’s what I want to do over the next 10 years. I also want to put a lot more effort into dominating the market across the continent and the world. Thula Sindi garments are already available in Angola, Nigeria and some places in Asia, but that is just the beginning!
How far away from becoming a gentleman of leisure are you?
[Laughs] Sometimes it just feels like the dream is getting farther and farther away because there is so much work to do but I do take care of myself. I love relaxing. I have days, some short stretches, where I do feel like a gentleman of leisure. Retirement is about 10 years away from now, I honestly thought it would be a lot closer [laughs]. But having said that, I am putting things in place to make sure I can live the best life I can.
I do love to work but if I didn’t have to, life would be a lot better!