The intern by David Tlale Perkolate Online

May 2017. Interview by Marelise Jacobs. Cover: Ntando Ngwenya - Courtesy of AFI.

Up-and-coming fashion designer Ntando Ngwenya is starting to make a name for himself in the South African fashion industry. For the past eighteen months the young designer has been working under the guidance of fashion icon David Tlale as part of The Intern challenge and emerged as the overall winner. Now with the enviable title of David Tlale's assistant designer, Ntando is sure to reach even higher levels of success. I spoke to Ntando to find out more about the challenge and his new role.

First of all, please tell me a little about yourself and how you first heard of The Intern?

Ntando: Designing is something I have been doing since a very early age. I guess you could say I am self-taught. Even though I had some formal training my family couldn't afford the funds so I started my own business and I have been designing for people since then. It was during working with clients that I found the entry form for The Intern by David Tlale and I applied and things have been happening from there.

“...I think he is one of the most focused people I have ever met in my life...” - Ntando Ngwenya

What is it like working with David, what do you learn on a daily basis?

Ntando: Working with David is nervewracking. It is definitely an experience. Working with him one learns to be a perfectionist, you need to know how to make amazing clothes, amazing finishes for your clients and how to start a brand for yourself. That is one of the key points. The standards are very high. Coming into the studio, I thought I knew it all but as time moved on I started learning certain things in terms of finishings and applying certain skills to the garments. You learn that quality and finishing are everything.

Do you think your style has changed since working with David?

Ntando: Yes, I mean you learn so many different things. Every year or every season you get different fabrics to work with and he tries his best to teach us how to control the fabric, how to manipulate it. You learn how to diagnose the fabric and draping.

What does your new role as assistant designer involve?

Ntando: I am basically shadowing David on a daily basis. Learning how he deals with clients, learning how he handles business and interacts with staff.

That must be an incredible position to be in?

Ntando: It is pretty much an amazing opportunity to learn everything from him. Coming into this business and meeting someone like David who teaches you all these things, it works in your advantage. You just have to be consistent and passionate about what you do. You need to know what you are doing because he doesn't take anything for granted, he is that type of guy. As a business you need to be focused and I think he is one of the most focused people I have ever met in my life, he is involved in everything. His outlook on life is that you need to be professional, you need to be involved in your business, you need to be accurate and passionate about you do.