When asked about who Tumelo is, he just laughs it off and says, “How does one ever find the right way to answer that question? I’d have to say that I am a 22 year old student who studies at NWU Vaal. I am an artist before I am anything, before I am a photographer, before I am a designer, before I am an entrepreneur. I AM AN ARTIST.”
Tumelo has been passionate about art since primary school. He began with sketching and later discovered a love of painting. Fast forward to the Tumelo of today: he has created great relationships with like-minded business people who have helped to shape, grow and incubate his business model. As he says, "The ideas and decisions that I make are heavily influenced by the people I surround myself with."
Not only does Tumelo own a company called SABALI, but he also owns a second business called International Shots – a modelling and photography agency that helps showcase his clothing line.
The brand’s name is SABALI, which means patience. According to Tumelo, "The brand is a clothing brand – a streetwear brand, in particular. We do have visions of expanding it more diversely and having a collective of designers. But at the moment, it’s a street wear that associates itself with visual art."
"It’s more than just clothing – it holds different meanings to different people, as art evokes different emotions in different people. So the clothing is open to any interpretation, which is the real beauty about it.”
The journey began with the launch of a clothing brand called Tumelo Ntja (named after himself, of course!) All clothes and caps were branded with his name, signature and a crown and his brand began to gain attention and a huge following of loyal buyers.
Tumelo later entered into a joint venture, resulting in the launch of the "Kings" brand. However, the lack of a shared vision by stakeholders prevented the business from thriving and the brand from continuing. Tumelo took all he had learnt, combined it with his vision for the business, and launched SABALI. The name originates from a song by Nas and Damian Marley, a song that suddenly allowed all the pieces to fit together, the path ahead of him to become clear, and Tumelo's dream to become a reality.
When asked about the Tumelo before and after the brand, he says, “It’s always been the same person. That being said, I've definitely grown to know who I am first, then who I am in the industry of creating.”
In brief, Tumelo is motivated by everything. Artists, he says, have the gift of seeing the world differently, and finding inspiration in what other people may view as nothing. Most of all, there is no denying that Tumelo is indeed inspired by the THEN and NOW - mixing both the young and old to create what we see in front of us today. Music is another source of inspiration, especially the music of J Cole and Jay Z.
“I aim to keep my brand different from other streetwear brands. My goal has always been to be different, and to stand out." Tumelo's vision involves creating unique items, staying relevant and producing items that carry weight. Long term, he also plans on signing other designers and even having his own production house one day.
Like any company, or individual who tries to build their own brand, Tumelo has not been immune to financial challenges. That being said, he does have an incredibly positive outlook on life and understands that one needs to spend money to get money. Another key challenge is his ongoing internal battle with whether or not his clothing line is communicating with people the way he wants it to.
"The best advice I can give you is to start! Whatever it is you are destined to do, you should start acting on your talents right now. It may seem daunting, but the only way you’ll know if it was worthwhile is if you begin. The proof is in the pudding."
Be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter. To be able to order items from his collection, be sure to follow him on the same socials or simply email him on [email protected]. You can also directly call either Charmaine: 083 925 0318 or Kamo: 082 645 5399.