Street Culture Visionary: Thatiso Dude

by Thulasizwe Somdyala

We living in exciting times were the young are not waiting for the baton to be passed down to them but are rather aggressively chasing their own lane. From the revitalisation of Hip-Hop to connect in local hues, to the shake down of politics from a fresh sense of self-ownership – the streets are lit. The young are showing the potential to be seized when free from externalities and woke in introspection. i spoke to Thatiso Dube, young visionary whose brand, Galxboy, curates street culture expression.

Image result for thatiso dube
Thatiso Dube

His story

This whole thing started in high school. i was just making t-shirts for my crew at school. The t-shirts had the name “Cheeseboy” printed on them, basically the name of our crew. So when it was civies time, we used to wear those t-shirts and that attracted a lot of attention. People wanted the t-shirts. As time went on i started taking a few orders and sold a few t-shirts. But it wasn’t really a business because the money we made from that we just wasted it on dumb stuff, you know what i mean. We never expected to get a demand for these things. So as the demand grew i decided to make something for the girls. i changed the name and it became “Cheesegalxboy” right. But then i figured, the name is a bit too long. That is when i went back to do some research. Also this was just an idea, i wasn’t even thinking of creating a clothing brand. i am from Mamelodi so i never had that much information about having your own brand. i didn’t even know that someone is able to have their own clothing brand. i always thought it was just for international brands like your Nikes or whatever. i always thought that those guys were the only ones allowed to have their clothing brands.

Around 2010, i discovered Amakipkip, which basically inspired me to actually start a real brand. Once that inspired me, i went and researched other brands. When i was at school, in computer class, i always went on the internet and researched my favourite brands on how they do things. How they communicate with their customer, their clothes; stuff like that. i was basically educating myself about the clothing industry. So from there i started designing. When i started i used to design on this… i’m not sure if you aware of Paint. The program on Windows. You know it’s a bit wack, but i started on that. Just using what i had to do what i wanted to do. i started on that and a few years later i got a bootleg of Photoshop and Illustrator and taught myself using youtube tutorials. Just basically putting in a lot of work. All by myself in the bedroom for years dawg, just teaching myself these programs and making designs, making clothes and stuff like that.

Eventually i started designing for Amakipkip in 2011. i always emailed them my designs and they always declined. Eventually i think early 2012, that is when they hit me up like yo, we want you to design the winter collection. That was my first job. Nkosana (Amakipkip owner) actually wanted to pay me a monthly salary. Instead of that i told him i’m interested in the experience, in the skill, in the contacts to actually run my own clothing line. So the guy said, “Ok, i’ll show you the ropes.” As i was designing for him, i think around March or April, he hit me up. He’s like yo, i’m about to be leaving for Asia to see my manufactures in a few weeks. If you can organise a flight ticket, you can come with me and i can show you the ropes that side. i had to go beg my parents and they helped me out with the flight ticket. We flew to China. i saw all the manufactures and how everything is done.

While we were there, we were making the Amakipkip clothes. i put in a few of my designs, just for samples, you know just one of ones. We came back to SA and started showing people my samples and they liked them. From there i started going back on my own to China, making my own stuff. i stopped designing for Amakipkip, the contract was just for 6 months. After that i started working on my own stuff. i even dropped out of school. Dropped out of university, i think i was studying accounting or something like that. My parents were obviously against it. i asked them to just give me a year and if nothing happens then i’ll be going back to school. And i didn’t want to go back to school so i had to make it work. In 2012, September, is when we launched our first collection. Since then it’s been crazy. Since 2012 when we launched the support has been crazy.

Amakipkip 2012 Winter Sample
Amakipkip 2012 Winter Sample

Creative process

During the day i am probably on the internet, going through blogs, tumblrs, clothing websites, instagrams. Going into other brands’ websites, check their stuff and download pictures of what i like. Then later at night i will check out all those pictures and recreate them in my way. Recreate them with some Galxboy flavour on it; change it up and switch it up. i design everyday. Every chance i get i design. Even if that day i made a whole lot of wack stuff, i still save it. So that one day i can put two and two together and make something else. It is better to create everyday then to wait for a season maybe like yo, summer is coming i need to make stuff or winter is coming. i basically do it everyday; the more the merrier. That’s what i do.

Street culture

Street culture to me is basically what’s happening currently. It is something that is an everyday thing. You can’t really define it because it changes every second. Street culture is probably one of the most influential thing to ever exist. A lot of people live by it, a lot of people teach themselves, educate themselves with street culture. The culture is free. It is out there. So it is an important part of the world, it constantly makes history everyday. Street culture to me is something that everyone needs to be aware of; it can change your life literally.

100… Being street also feels like a synonym for being real to me. With the streets mainly hosting counterfeit goods – besides the source – what makes a product authentic that the streets want a duplicate? And do you see a merge of the mainstream and informal sector in a similar fashion as the music piracy guys worked hand in hand with distributors in Nigeria to create a balance in the market?

In my situation what makes my product real and duplicated i think it is the way it is made; the design itself. My secret to having a successful brand is making sure that the product can sell itself. i make sure that my products are always 100%. i don’t wanna need to convince you to buy them. i put it in the shop, if you like it you like it, if you don’t you don’t. Surprisingly a lot of people like it so we focus on the product. You don’t wanna get a ‘Chris Brown’ for you to buy it. You just want the product to make you buy it and no one else. i think that’s why people would wanna duplicate it ‘cause  it’s powerful on its own already without anyone endorsing it.

i mean counterfeits happen to the best of us. It shouldn’t be something that discourages you from creating more. The counterfeiters do not even know what they doing; we have a lot of fakes in the market. But we can actually see that it is fake. The best advise i can give to someone who is being counterfeitered is to make more dope shit. There is no use in crying over somebody bootlegging you; make more stuff. Even if you not getting paid for these counterfeits but you also basically doing it for the culture.

i can’t say we can work hand in hand with the informal sector but it’s something you can’t run away from if your product is that good. People will duplicate it, it is just the way of life. If you the best rapper alive then people will want to be you. They will copy you, imitate you or something like that; that’s just how life works.

Malls

Thing is with the shops in malls, there are a lot of rules. The designer would probably make a thousand designs and they would probably choose two or five. There is a lot of rules, control and boundaries that the designers cant cross because of studies the companies have done or whatever. Right now, in fashion, you can’t be technical you know what i mean. You just have to basically give what the people want or give them what they think they want. In malls, these big corporates are more technical. For me fashion is about risk, you just have to risk it. If you risk it you will probably have the next trend. But these big corporates they minimise risk because they do not want to lose money or whatever. They make money because the majority does not have a choice but to buy at the mall. Not everybody knows Galxboy or other small local brands; so they buy at the mall because they don’t have any other option. i’d say the guys coming after me, they must just do what they love. Don’t be restricted or controlled by anybody. Once you are controlled you basically don’t even work for yourself anymore.

So in terms of pricing i feel most of the local brands do not understand their socio-psycho-economic environment. The pricing of clothes usually excludes the majority of the population, with those who can afford rather opting for international brands at that price because of perceived quality ‘n bragging millage. How can local brands be more consumable?

If it’s in the beginning you just have to give people a price they can afford. Then as your brand gains value you start making profit from your clothes. In the beginning you sort of have to price it in a way that will make you survive and grow. That is how the market works. If your brand has a lot of value then nobody will have a problem paying the price. If it doesn’t have the value, people won’t be willing to pay on an international level. You basically have to grow your brand to charge people anything you want to charge them. It takes some time. Just like a restaurant, they tell you it takes seven years to make an actual profit. As in clothing, take time to grow the value of your brand so that you can make demands.

Research will make you understand that your t-shirt quality is not the same as Nike quality so you cannot charge Nike quality price. Do research and compare with existing brands. You can’t count on the support local movement if your stuff is not on the level that it needs to be. You have to make sure your product is 100%.

galxboy: “ VISIT OUR STORE 1066 BURNETT STREET, HATFIELD, PTA MON - THUR 10AM - 6PM FRI 10AM - 7PM SAT 10AM - 5PM ”

When you heard 90% local content on radio, did a piece of you not pray a similar fraction spilled into retail?

i mean it can be 90% but what if we don’t have enough content for that 90%. It’s a good thing but also we must make sure we have that 90%. If we don’t have it, it doesn’t make business sense even for a mall to just house local brands only. The corporates are sure that with these guys (international brands) their products can pay for rent but with us they not 100% sure. So we have to erase that stigma in the corporates’ heads; that we can pay rent forever.

It has to start with us making sure that our product is on the same level as international brands, so that we can demand that 90% local. If government helps us with funding and capacity then we can take it further. We can be able to deliver and make all the ideas we have come to life yabo. It is a thing of capacity. There are some good brands out there but they cannot handle being in a mall or anything like that. International brands have a lot of money, they put money into everything. Otherwise on our side the only thing we can put money on is product. We can’t even put that much money into marketing. If government steps in then we could have less international brands coming in.

Also, people like Platinum Fashion Group who have now left the game were comfortable and didn’t want to move with the times. People like Mr. Price and Edgars are also feeling the burn of these international brands. i think the only way abo-Mr. Price nabo Edgars can survive is to give us platforms to work in their spaces. We understand what the people want. They basically corporate heads who are like i said, very technical. If they give us a chance to work with them, we can probably kick a few international brands out of SA. We have the ideas, we just don’t have the capacity to bring them out on that international level.

100. i hear the “tots” in ur street name “Vuittots” is an appreciation of Hottentot. How can heritage be better translated into design?

i got the name Tots, i think i was in primary school, in history class. We were learning about the Hottentots (Lawu) and San (Batwa) people. Apparently i looked like the guy on one of the pictures so from there the name stuck. But brands like Butan Wear execute that very well, that African feel. Otherwise, culture wise, it can be shown in many ways. The different cuts that people wear, the colours… a lot of elements. Creative wise you can do a lot with culture and modern clothes. It is important to somewhat focus on the culture side of things to remind people where they come from. But obviously sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work in the real world. Business wise, it might not workout but it is good for the culture.

It might not be a popular decision to make in terms of people might like it but they might not wanna wear it or buy it. They might appreciate it being done but not really wanna buy it. To be honest, it’s not that cool and the youth wants to be cool. They want to be in the latest stuff that’s cool; they want to be trendy. Maybe it will need someone to make it cool for everyone to think it’s cool. Unfortunately that’s how the world works. People never want to make things cool, they’d rather see it from someone first, you know what i mean. We are waiting for someone else to tell us it’s cool then we will consider it.

i see you. Galxboy means “what girls do because of boys and what boys do because of girls.” Your thoughts on Afrika embracing the Young Thug/Gangstalicious aesthetic of wearing woman clothing?

You never know with fashion man. You can never predict what’s gonna happen. Our parents used to wear skinny jeans way back in the 70s, 80s whatever. Now we wearing them again. Fashion is something that you can predict the least. i never thought that some of these current fashions would ever exist but they do. Once the world is on it, its on it forever. Tomorrow we might be back to baggy jeans. That’s the greatest thing about fashion, you never know what’s going to happen.

i used to wear FUBU a lot, you know durags – i was influenced by Hip-Hop and the culture. Then once that changed down i changed with it. That’s the beauty about the culture, street culture, you can reinvent yourself every time.

Realest thing mama papa told him

My mother always says, “Never do anything because of other people.” Don’t be anything to impress anybody. At the end of the day if it goes all wrong, it’s gonna go on you and no one else. My dad always told me to follow what i believe in no matter what. If i believe in something, don’t give up on it no matter the circumstances.

Those things helped me a lot. They allowed me to be more myself and trust in my decisions. Believing in what i’m doing helped me get this far. Without belief, i would have given up long ago with this brand. There were times were you flat broke, no money. Felt like giving up. Me believing in it helped me not quit.

So in our generation, i’m not sure where i heard this, but someone said we a minute made generation. We expect everything at a flick of the wrist and success is put in the same feel especially how mainstream sells it. We do not see the struggle in the come up but the come up. So for that nigga out there struggling, what’s your last words for them?

Start from the bottom, start very small. Understand what you doing, research about what you doing. Don’t take any constructive criticism from anybody who hasn’t constructed anything. A lot of people talk but they never know what they talking about. That is why research is very important so you know on your own instead of people telling you what it is. Start small, start from the bottom and always do your research you’ll find the answer.

From starting at the bottom and growing into an international brand. Listen to the man.

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