“If poverty is a struggle, hustle hard for a cure” – this is the idea that Thabiso Mokomeli had when he established his clothing label, T Squared Clothing in 2008. Six years down the line, the clothing has a store in Gugulethu, Station Park and often has pop-up stores in various township spots. LIVE sat down with Mokomele, to find out what makes T-Squared Clothing a force to be reckoned with in the local fashion industry.
LIVE: What was the reason behind the creation of T-Squared Clothing?
Thabiso: We felt there was a need for a clothing brand coming from Gugulethu, back in 2008, there was no brand that was clothing brand operating.
LIVE: What does the name “T-squared” mean and how did it came about?
Thabiso: The inspiration of the name T-Squared came from the names of the former founders, Thabiso and Thapelo (the two t’s which forms T –Squared).I wanted to get the message out there. If poverty is a struggle, hustle hard for a cure and I thought what better way to do that than through clothing. We are image-conscious and we love fashion. Naturally, a clothing brand was an obvious choice”
LIVE: What are some of the challenges on being a young entrepreneur?
Thabiso: It’s finance. I had to use my allowance money from my parents to pay for production. I also saved money to buy a sewing machine and to open the first store of T Squared. I cannot emphasise how hard it has been but because this is my life, I try every day.
LIVE: What kind of clothes do you guys produce?
Thabiso: We design branded tee’s and crewnecks with our popular slogan ‘If poverty is a struggle – hustling is a cure’, fashion forward caps, pants, shorts and vests.
LIVE: Is the material used in your clothes locally or internationally produced?
Thabiso: All the material is produced locally and I am a huge fan of supporting local talent.
LIVE: What make T-Squared different from other brands?
Thabiso: The fact that we manufacture our own garments, they are hand crafted and we run a store which opens every weekend.
LIVE: What challenges has the brand faced thus far?
Thabiso: Finance and time management: I’m a full time student and have the clothing brand to run. I design and sew the clothing myself. Juggling the two can be very challenging yet I try [Laughs]. Sometimes I have orders and assignments at the same time, both needing my attention.
LIVE: What have been the highlights of the business so far?
Thabiso: My highlight has to be the PopUpStore launch that took place on June 15, in Gugulethu – a large attendance of loyal and new clientele showed up and showed off by buying my clothing. That made me realise how much support I have locally.
LIVE: How do you stay relevant?
Thabiso: By looking at what is currently in fashion, together with what are our target audience like and what can I do differently from everyone else, in order to maintain my uniqueness.
LIVE: Long term goals for the brand?
Thabiso: To distribute our garments to well established stores like YDE and Sportscene, nationwide.
LIVE: What is the next step for T-Squared Clothing?
Thabiso: Dropping our summer collection is our definite next move. There’s so much I still wish to achieve like get funding so that I can operate the business to the best of my abilities (without money being the major factor), open up another T-Squared clothing store and branch out to the rest of South Africa.
LIVE: Advice for young South Africans aspiring to be entrepreneurs?
Thabiso: Always have someone that you look up to as an entrepreneur and always be positive at all times, because in business there are no guarantees. Always keep your eyes on the prize and never sell yourself short, always believe ‘I can, it is possible and I will’ when the time is right it will all happen.
LIVE: How do you see yourself contributing to the fashion industry?
Thabiso: By bringing something that is manufactured by T-Squared to the people and our slogan that we use in our clothes “If poverty is a struggle-hustling is a cure” inspires the youth to get up and do something productive with their lives. And, the growth of the brand will lead to job creation.
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