His story starts in Tsakane, a township near Ekurhuleni – in sight of the mining mounds that spread the fame of denim. In the 19th century Levi Strauss made a fortune supplying riveted jeans to mine workers and coincidentally Tshepo also makes jeans for the stylish in the city of gold (and beyond). Tshepo says his love of fashion started at home where he was raised by his mother, his aunt and his grandmother. Each of them playing a part in making him who he is today. From his grandmother, who is a pastor, the dictum: You are a gentleman and you always have to look like one. From his aunt the love of fashion as a way to express who you are. And from his mother a desire to succeed.
His first range, the Presidential Slim Fit, is still going strong. As he tells the story of its evolution from a minimalistic rough design to the branded, riveted and riveting product it is today you get to see the passion behind his love for denim. Why denim in particular? “Every pair of jeans is a story. I have a pair of jeans that survived me falling off a motorbike that tell a story of what I have survived. I want to create a legacy. I want to keep my story alive. We hear about stories of great jean makers from the 1800s (like Levi) and they are still with us today. I want people to wear their stories made by Tshepo the Jean Maker. These jeans will outlive me,” he says.
He adds: “I have not done it alone. Right now I employ six people who are as passionate about this as I am. I have Ahmed, from Malawi, who is a tailor; Ntando with the in-house fashion design; Thulani doing the cutting; Vanessa in sales and Mam Nyoki keeping us all going. And then there are the people who have supported me. We don’t have money in my family, but they give me emotional support. A lot of entrepreneurs underestimate the importance of that. It’s not just about money, but about the people who walk the journey and make the story with you.”
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