With no fashion design qualification, Theo Khumalo has taken the fashion industry by storm with his nippiness in the way he looks at things setting him above the rest. It was his drifting into a modelling career that inspired him to want to wear his outfits. His brand Theo Ragged focuses mainly on wearables.
He said he wants people to feel comfortable in their stuff. They do funky, corporate and winter lines of sweaters and jackets. He said at the moment they are working on a formal wear collection that will see them going for the corporate suits. On why he has decided to become a fashion designer, Khumalo said his dream came up 11 years ago. He just wanted to wear his own design than to model another person’s stuff. “I liked the whole concept of being more appreciated on stage,” he said.
Many are still surprised that Khumalo has never gone to a design school. His passion saw him through when some doubted his capabilities. Even some of his friends needed a lot of convincing. Appreciating the importance of education he tried to go to a fashion school to learn, but when he got there he realised it was not for him since he knew most of the things that were being taught. He even got infuriated because he felt he was the one helping too much with ideas.
According to Khumalo, being a designer just happened overnight. He said the favourite part about being a designer is creation because by that someone is able to change the trend. His favourite category in fashion design is what they call ‘Avant Grande’, where they are forced to take it to the limit, be creative and do something that no one has ever seen before. With so many things that people use to inspire them, Khumalo surprisingly said he does not believe in inspiration. He said he is not inspired but rather get his great ideas from day to day basics where he can see a pocket that he likes from a certain outfit but will rather do it his own way. “Inspiration is just overrated,” he said. On whether he focuses on any select materials Khumalo said he works with what he can afford as he sternly believes that fashion comes from different materials. With his standoffish attitude he said there is no specific material for any specific thing. He made example that denim can also make a bikini, as a way to emphasise that for a fashion designer there shouldn't be any material that is said to be off limits. Khumalo's future plans are to work with other designers and also take the brand to other countries and other stores. He said with the fashion industry very slow locally, he wants to see himself being invited to other shows outside the country to get exposed to new ideas and designs. Describing his fashion philosophy, Khumalo said fashion is the way someone lives, the kind of car that they drive and in overall someone's lifestyle. He referred to fashion as something without boundaries.
On whether he encounters any challenges, with his quirky way Khumalo said there is no challenge to him as a designer. The only thing that he said someone might call a challenge is the fact that there are so many designers in Botswana while the population is quite small. He said sometimes old designers lose clients to the new ones as those people always want to explore. He asserted that in designing there aren’t any problems. He said one important aspect to them as designers is that they should not be confused with tailors because tailors are told what to do, but as designers they want to create something for someone looking at them, and what they think will look good on them.
Khumalo said his work doesn’t define his personal taste because sometimes he can create very funky clothes even though he is not too funky himself. When asked which top designers around the world he would love to work with, Khumalo did not jump to mention the names, but said he wants to work with many top designers but only when showcasing with them because he believes he has creations that can stand next to seasoned designers and give them a run for their money. “I believe in my designs, I am confident about my garments,” he said. Khumalo said the government should support the fashion industry and create policies that enable the industry to grow. “We need things like YDE store in South Africa that works with new designers every year, which gets the designers to work and learn a lot of things,” he said.