We had the good fortune of connecting with Tenele Zwane and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Tenele, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I studied fashion design to be a fashion entrepreneur; so I always knew I’d have my own business in fashion. However, I wasn’t fully aware of what kind of business it would be until the final year of my studies. I am a self-taught crocheter from the university of youtube, despite going to fashion school. But sewing wasn’t my strongest skill and I was worried I wouldn’t have found that THING that would make me stand out amongst the others. Coming into the final year of my studies, I had gradually improved on my crochet skills and decided to create a collection of crochet garments. They were like no other and I immediately knew this would make me stand out; I had found my THING. soon enough, people around campus knew me as the one who crocheted. When I got to showcase my collection at African Fashion International Fashion Week, it was featured in an online publication and I also won “Best commercial Range” that same year. The award and the fashion show confirmed that I could be known as a crochet designer. So now that I found my THING, the next step was how I could make a business out of it. What I love about crochet is that it empowered me to make money while I studied and it was a craft I could do anytime, anywhere so I was constantly getting better and more passionate about it. To me, it felt like crochet found me, instead of the other way around. when I felt like I had no skill or talent, crochet gave me skill and talent. and because I was making money with it during my studies, I knew I could make a living from it and that’s how I decided to convert my hobby into a business.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a luxury crochet designer, creating custom wear and capsule collections that are stylish, sustainable, and offer longevity in your wardrobe. All items are handmade by me using intricate crochet stitches, beautiful contrasting colors that are inspired by various natural landscapes, and natural yarns such as bamboo yarn, cotton yarn, and recycled cotton yarn. I am most proud of myself for starting an online store for my brand; I was very hesitant to put myself out there officially but it’s what I’m meant to do and I’m proud of myself for getting out of my own way to do that. My journey started in university where I studied fashion design, I taught myself how to crochet and never stopped developing my skills and I’ve grown more passionate about it over the years. the internships I did with various brands that offered knowledge about crocheting and sustainability gave me clarity and assurance that I can be a successful designer. The journey had not been easy, passion and curiosity are the things that got me through my challenges, i am always a student throughout this journey. What I have learned is that perfectionism is crippling- allow yourself to make mistakes, don’t be hard on yourself for all the misses because there’s always room to grow. I want the world to know that Subtle-T Designs is ready to take on the world as an established luxury crochet brand and that it’s only just the beginning.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I enjoy afternoon hike trails at a park. Eating out at Doppio Zero, that is one of my favorite restaurants to eat at. Going to Hazelwood, Pretoria for lunches. Food markets or music festivals in Joburg and Pretoria. The occasional movie at Rosebank and roller skating at RollEgoli.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate this shout-out to my mother, my aunt, and my father for trusting and believing in me to pursue Fashion. My late grandmother. she used to crochet in her past life and I somewhat believe she passed down her skill to me for a reason. My Best friend, Sinazo who saw my potential before I could see it myself and always pushed me to think and dream big about my brand. My partner, Jeffrey for always instilling in me how unique and skilled I am and to stand confidently in that. All my friends who showed up to help me and support me in my endeavors. All the internship opportunities I got to experience along the way, helped me gain clarity and direction in what kind of designer I am and I am meant to be.

Website: www.subtle-tdesigns.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/subtletdesigns/?hl=en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TeneleZ

Image Credits
Curtesy of African Fashion International (AFI), Ray Longs, Estrela Studios

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