The self-taught denim technician who beat shyness with style

 

When he was young, Tshepo Mohlala’s grandmother gave him the advice that would shape the rest of his life. “Look good, all the time,” she said. Heeding her words of wisdom, a 9-year-old Mohlala donned his first suit. But just as soon as it had opened, the door to stylish living slammed in his face, as the pressure of social acceptance caused him to tone down his natural effervescence to mute the laughter of his peers.

Even considering the often-cruel judgment of children, why anyone would be ridiculed for wearing fine clothes is a mystery. As a result, Mohlala employed shyness as a guard between himself and the world. But over time he learnt to let go and embrace his calling to fashion. Determined to create a lasting impression in the competitive industry, he opted to specialise in a timeless fabric. Denim.

Self-taught in the art of creating clothing from the durable material, Mohlala makes use of local produce for all his designs. As a South African designer, he realises his obligation to grow the spirit of entrepreneurship among his countrymen. Fashion gave Mohlala a means of speaking out beyond his natural shyness as a child, and now he uses it to pass the loud-hailer on to those around him who need a leg up in the industry.