South Africa’s townships have always existed on the edge. They’re a product of the racist apartheid system that excluded non-whites but with the transition to democracy townships have emerged as cultural powerhouses, bringing new art, photography, music and fashion to revitalise the mainstream.
Designer Sanele Cele is conscious that townships like Umlazi, where he lives south of Durban, are still heavily marginalised. This outsider mindset guides his vision for Tempracha, which he hopes to use to break down the walls and bring township street style to the world of high fashion.
As Tempracha release their new shoot, a collaboration with photographer Thanda Kunene, we hit up Sanele to find out more about his fight to take the brand forward.
How and why did you start Tempracha?
I bootstrapped. I’ve always loved fashion that’s all I could ever do. I have the attention span of a fish, unless you’re talking detail and clothes. As it always begins, I love clothes so started sketching them and then began to use hand needles to customise my gear. After high school I decide to take design at tertiary but I dropped out of my first year cause I’d take days off school to perfect the art of tailoring. I ended up ever going back and have been doing my own thing ever since.
Is it a good time to strike it alone?
It’s always been a good time to strike it alone. I mean if that’s what you wanna do. It’s not a calculated decision, it’s a “its just who I am” sort of thing, you know.
What were you doing beforehand?
Making clothes for me and my mom. So basically nothing.
What challenges have you faced?
All my clothes are tailored towards lighthouse people or what we term “early adopters” of trends and whatnot. Due to the fact I don’t have any other way I’m making a living, it gets kinda tricky. Cause there aren’t that many of them to sell to haha. Oh, and I dislike it when a trend catches on months after I put it in production and, as I’m an artist, I can’t start doing it again for the money.
Who or what do you take inspiration from?
Life. And my dreams. And your dreams, my surroundings. I walk a lot.
Are there any indie brands out there that you think are doing great things?
Supreme and Visvim.
What does independence mean to you?
It doesn’t mean as much as you’d think actually. Everyone is making such a big hoo-ha out of it like its still the ’60s. We live in a new time where majors don’t stifle art like they used to. It boils down to preference now.
What’s the single greatest lesson you’ve learned from setting up your own business?
Esok’qala (Zulu street slang for ‘respect’). Respect your self first and foremost; your craft, your peers and know your worth. Every cent, every minute counts. Being good at what you do doesn’t mean good business, so learn good business management.Your heart’s advice matters the most.
What are your ambitions for the future of Tempracha?
Private jets, poppin bottles, models, etc…. The usual (not true). Our main ambition was bridging a gap between high and street fashion, that’s more of our staple. We are street but still love tailor-made garment. For us moving forward means being able to have our gear available from anywhere in this universe but still maintaining the highest of quality both in thread and fabric.
Find out more about Tempracha.
Photography: Thanda Kunene
Models : Kyle Deutsch, Celestial Mic, Souly Sam
Creative direction & styling: Sanele Cele