According to Thabo: “A suit is not just a suit – it’s the fit”. The owner and designer of Tovch (pronounced Touch) invites us into his world of dressing gentlemen.
By: Mokgadi Letsoalo
All Photos by: Jerri Mokgofe
Thabo Khumalo was the Mini Menswear Semi-finalist at this year’s SA Fashion Week (Autumn/Winter). The self-taught designer from Zola has been making waves for his magical hand that transforms men into sophisticated gentlemen.
He has dressed some of the A-List local stars, such as Warren Masemola, Theo Kgosinkwe, Lunga Shabalala, Mthoko “Dash” Mkhathini, Shane Eagle and Reason.
Thabo is also proving to be a smart entrepreneur, his Tovch Concept Store, based in Maboneng, is becoming a sacred haven for fashion forward men.
“I don’t just design clothes to sell to people, my brand sells a lifestyle through clothes,” says the designer.
Thabo’s career was officially launched in 2014 when he became runner-up in the SA fashion week (SAFW) Scouting Menswear Competition. His brand, then called Touch of Bling, had been launched a year prior to the competition and operated at a studio in Johannesburg’s CBD.
“I changed the name in 2016 to Tovch because when men hear the word bling, they automatically think extravagantly shiny,” he shares with a giggle.
The designer expresses that although he is an extravagant artist, he believes that toned down and simple looks are most popular because South African men are still wary of stepping out of the box when it comes to fashion.
Thabo honed his skills as a designer by watching his mother who worked as a seamstress. However, she did not want him to pursue fashion designing full-time because to her sewing meant working your spine away for many hours in factories, like she did.
He had to prove to her that he can be a successful designer without slaving away in textile factories.
He reveals that in order to get his work out there he had to associate with designers that were already in the industry. He gained knowledge and skills from watching other great fashion designers and cites David Tlale as his biggest inspiration.
His plan was effective because within no time his mother began to see his vision unfold.
“It worked,” he says beaming with pride. “She started seeing my work in magazines and on celebrities.”
But the moment he holds most dear was when she first went to the SAFW, where he was showcasing, and personally crowned his collection her favourite and winner of the night.
“It was her true expression of proudness and acknowledgement of my talent,” he adds.
The designer holds no new recipe for success. He simply believes that individuals are capable of designing success for themselves. “Water it with hard work and nourish it with consistency and passion, the results are bound to be sweeter than cane,” he says.
He reveals that he is expanding his horizons by adding women’s wear to his repertoire.
“I have been dressing women and they always are fun and easy to work with. They allow me to experiment and test any fashion idea on them.” He explains.
Thabo also holds a reputation for architecting red carpet looks for the likes of Pearl Thusi, Nandi Madida and Kelly Khumalo; adding a women’s line to his store is an expected move.
Despite a golden résumé and the success of his store, Thabo maintains that he must always market his work to keep his brand relevant.
“I cannot sit and chill because I now have a shop.”
He now plans to educate upcoming designers about the trade secrets of the fashion industry.
“It’s not an easy journey and young designers need to know,” he explains.
He urges fashion designers to research and understand the kind of a client they desire to capture.
The designer also encourages artists to support other artists.
“We need to work together to build successful black owned businesses. It’s already hard for a black child to make it in any industry. Our number one goal should be circulating the money amongst ourselves 10 times before it goes out of our hands.”
Address: 278 Fox Street, Maboneng, Johannesburg