Hand crafting a way out of poverty
If Thabiso Mokomele’s love for fashion doesn’t inspire you, the clothing he makes will. His homegrown brand, and some of his t-shirts, carry slogans that encourage people to push past the limitations of poverty. The sign above the door of his garage in Gugulethu, where he hand crafts the garments, says it all: ‘There is no success without hardship’. What started as his side hustle in 2008 has become a rising brand that’s making an impact across the country.
“I realised my interest in design back in high school when I started this business as a hobby,” Mokomele says. To supplement his fees, he printed slogans and designs on t-shirts and sold them at a profit. The inspirational range was an instant hit. “I created a brand that serves and strives to inspire the youth of South Africa,” Mokomele says. He continued to follow his interest in the clothing industry, all while studying Human Resources Management at the University of the Western Cape and graduating with an honours degree. As his business, T-Squared Clothing, grew, Mokomele was able to buy his own sewing machinery and employ people to work alongside him. He now produces clothing from scratch rather than redesigning existing garments. “I want people to know that through innovation, we can take control of our lives,” he says.
In 2017, Mokomele was named the KFM entrepreneur of the year. The designer has a clear vision for the future of his business: “To become the leading urban streetwear brand by the end of this year,” he says. “We already have stores in Jo’burg, Cape Town, and Durban.” Yet even with the nationwide recognition, Mokomele remembers the people in his hometown who were his first supporters. “The community love my work. This business is for them,” he says. Mokomele’s designs have proven to be more than just a way to earn extra cash; it’s a lesson in initiative. “Fashion gave me the opportunity to design my own future,” Mokomele says. “Greatness, it’s in our hands.”