The fashion icon we almost lost to a career in accounting


David Tlale is a megastar in South African fashion. He’s been ruling the runway locally and abroad in trademark dramatic style for well over a decade, and is the first South African designer to have a solo show at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. Which is why it’s hard to believe he nearly ended up being an accountant.

With a gift for numbers, Tlale was once on a staid path to a steady income and secure future. But while studying he turned his back on convention and decided to go after his passion. Tlale was made for fashion. After winning the Elle Rising Star award in 2003, he quickly rose to the top of his field, collecting a host of accolades along the way. Among his dazzling collection is the 2016 Male Continental Style & Fashion Influencer Award, which he received at the Bryanz Style Fashion Awards, and his 2014 Designer of the Year from the Africa Diaspora to acknowledge a career spent representing African fashion.

The history of his country has influenced his path. One of Tlale’s more famous exhibitions included a dress inspired by Robben Island, a sobering gesture from one of fashion’s real high-flyers. He has found incredible success on the international stage and his work has travelled to New York, Washington and Paris, but Tlale has never lost touch with his African roots.