I am currently going through a black and gold love affair. And funny enough I keep randomly acquiring black and gold clothes and accessories. There is something classical and timeless about those colors. Look at this gorgeous bag I got from my sister Tendayi. I am madly in love!!!
April 01, 2014
I had the great pleasure of meeting Gareth Cowden of Babatunde, the creator and designer himself. As you would know I am on a mission to meet as many talented African Designers and I was over the moon when Gareth said he would meet with me!
I have read on Babatunde before and checked out a few interviews online but I am super glad to say that I got to meet another side to Gareth that I am sure you will all find very human and because of that, extremely inspiring, especially if you are pursuing a fashion design career in South Africa.
I visited Gareth with my brother Ivan, who is my right hand man and favourite photographer on planet earth. He took all the amazing pics that you will see and he also got involved in my awesome discussion with Gareth.
We started off with a tour around his studio. It turns out he is an Arsenal fan which was the only thing I found highly disappointing, LOL, being the die-hard Liverpool fan that I am. It turns out that Gareth wanted to be a professional Footballer initially and in his room are quite a lot of trophies he has won. When he isn’t working on Babatunde or spending time with his family, he is out playing football.
Currently Gareth has an assistant that works with him and an intern on board as his team. Gareth is married to his brand Babatunde and they currently live together in his apartment in Linden. In other words his home is his studio. He eats, sleeps and breathes Chitenge pretty much. Absolutely love it!
Well anyway we got to chatting and below are some snippets of our chat:
How much of your time goes to Babatunde?
When you own your own business if you are not sleeping you are working. I wake up naturally when it is light, so in summer for instance, I am up around 5 – 6am in the morning. I will have a quick shower, breakfast and then I get to computer to begin working.
My assistant now manages my orders, I spend a lot of time responding to emails from clients, as I am a stylist as well.
Oh you are a stylist as well?
Yes, my background is in styling. I have been a stylist for 10 years now.
Who do you style and what is your type of style, is it in a category or are you more versatile and brief specific?
In South Africa styling is more versatile, in Europe it is more specific, you either style men, women, for advertising or fashion editorials.
In the past I styled Thandiswa Mzwai, she is so amazing, she taught me so, so much. I did the odd TV commercial and a few music videos. I got to do a music video for Basement Jaxx last year which was pretty cool.
I am quite over styling because it is so limited in South Africa. You get briefs from clients who want to look like American Artists, some who want to look like Beyonce or Missy Elliot. It is limited in terms of the clothes available and limited in terms of the clients who are not prepared to push their look. Also the earning potential is pretty low compared to how much work you put in. When you are passionate about something you need to grow and if you are not growing and you are not learning what is the point in continuing?
What were you doing before Babtunde and styling?
I left varsity - studied in Grahamstown. I wanted to play football as a career. Though it was a very harsh environment and I got to a point where I said to myself this was going to turn into a job I hated and I would rather be able to enjoy it.
So after Varsity I did odd jobs here and there. I worked for my aunt’s company working in a warehouse, sticking barcodes onto sports equipment. After that, I worked for a company called Hotshot that specialises in TV crews for TV commercials. It was a different vibe from working in the office. So I enjoyed that and decided I wanted to go into styling. My parents didn’t understand that being from a different generation. So then I got a job at an export agency for three months and after my probation I told actually told the boss I can’t.
So after that I started assisting a stylist. I worked for Elle Magazine for a year as a fashion assistant, which was good experience, also very stressful. I lived in Dubai and London, working as a stylist. After that I freelanced as a stylist till Babatunde started at the end of 2009.
On Monday do you get the blues?
No I get Sunday blues. Because then you are thinking about all the stuff that you need to do on Monday and can only be done on Monday.
What made you decide to create Babatunde?
When I moved back from London in 2009, styling was just up and down. In August and September I did just two half day shoots and I was sitting at home so bored and getting really depressed. Then I thought I need other ways of making money.
When I thought of what to do I realised I knew people who made hats and caps in town. So I was brainstorming on how I could add a twist to that. In 2007 I went to Libraville, Gabon, on holiday. Having been to other African countries I noticed how proud the people are to be wearing their prints, whether it’s a little kid, Mom, Dad, there seems to be a sense of pride. And I thought 'I have never seen people wearing those prints here' and I decided to try it. So I went to a fabric store and went to place orders with the manufacturers I knew in town.
Then I got a job full time and totally forgot about it, till I got a call later from the guys saying my order was ready. In July 2010 is when the brand was created, when I actually had proper stock. Maria Mccloy was actually one of the first people to see my stock and said she liked it and she wanted it to sell. I sent some pictures to Big Blue and they ordered some stock. Then it just took off.
Do you have a social life?
I am very antisocial. I am either working or playing football and when I am not busy I go to Baseline on a Thursday. (sounds pretty social to me!!!)
Babatunde is four years old now. Solange has worn his clothing accessories at NYFW and at a performance, she has also instagrammed herself in some of his stuff. Gareth says when he was in France a lot of people recognised his brand because Solange had worn his stuff. Which is awesome publicity because she has also just been made brand ambassador for Puma.
My favourite quote from what he said when we met was “I think if you are busy, busy is an excuse for things that you don’t really want to do. Things have gotta happen, if not business will just stagnate.”