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The Varsity DROPOUT WHO Created GALXBOY

GALXBOY is a high-end streetwear brand that has been making waves in South Africa and beyond for the past decade.

GALXBOY

It has its roots in the underground and rebellious youth street culture that dominates the urban centres of Mzanzi. Its founder saw a gap in the market for a brand that was designed by the youth for the youth, in particular, Millennials as well as Generation Z. Through ambition, perseverance and teamwork, the brand was was born in June 2008.

The GALXBOY aesthetic is characterized by its innovative designs brought to life through a 21st-century African design philosophy that showcases the modern aspirations of South African youth. The brand draws its inspiration from the “new age” youth of South Africa who constantly redefine what it means to be African, young, wild and free. The result is a unique fusion of urban streetwear and African-inspired design that speaks to a generation of young people who want to make a statement.

GALXBOY has maintained its relevance for over 14 years, It’s a streetwear brand with a hint of luxury. The catch is they make it affordable in the South African market. On the iconic graphic tees to the minimalistic dome bags or embossed totes, which sell out like a Teflar bag, they have a good understanding of what South Africans want and how to keep that demand.

Background

In order for us to understand how GALXBOY became one of South Africa’s biggest clothing brands, let’s take a closer look at the life of its founder, Thatiso Dube, aka Totts or Mr Vuittots.

Thatiso “Vuitotts” Dube

Born and bred in Mamelodi, a township in the northeast of Pretoria, Vuitotts went to La Montagne Primary school and Cornerstone College. Growing up, he used to Deejay and even wanted to study sound engineering or become a music producer after finishing high school, however, he found passion in fashion after taking inspiration from his brother.

In grade 12, he moved to Centurion to stay with his father, while there, a friend of his called Khotso introduced him to then rising hip hop star, Anatii, and a bromance was formed.

They always chilled together whenever time he was in the studio recording and perfecting his craft. Every weekend he was at Anatii’s house and since he was sort of privileged and tech savvy, he introduced to him to the internet and photoshop.

Founder of Ama Kip Kip, Nkosana Modise

Anatii also introduced him to Ama Kip Kip and its founder, Nkosana Modise, because at that time he was ambassador of the brand. Growing up, he didn’t think it was possible for normal guys like himself to design and run their own brands, he thought that spot was only reserved for the likes of Nikes, Adidas and Pumas. Finding out Ama Kip Kip was owned by a black person shifted his mindset and made him believe even he could do it too.

He started playing with Windows paint and started learning about layering and experimenting with different shapes. A friend of his had a cracked version of Photoshop, so he sat in his bedroom for hours on end teaching himself through YouTube tutorials and eventually cracked it.

He gained enough confidence and came out with a logo that heavily copied Ama Kip Kip, and then printed out a few t-shirts to give to his friends from school to wear during service.

CHEESEBOY AND CHEESEGAL

Due to the positive reception from his peers, the CHEESEBOY brand was founded. The girls became envious and requested their own version, so he honored their desires with the CHEESEGIRL version.

CHEESEBOY AND CHEESEGIRL did really well, Vuittots ended up making over R5000 during his high school stay, which was a lot of money for him at that time. From then going forward, he was hooked on forever in the entrepreneurial world.

After matriculating in 2008, he enrolled for Internal Auditing at the University of Pretoria, by this time he had already formed a relationship the Ama Kip Kip founder.

GALXBOY

As he learned more about clothing and fashion, he realized he had to combine his 2008 brands together, CHEESEBOY and CHEESEGIRL, as well as come up with a new and an improved logo.

Initially he came up with CHEESEGIRLXBOY but the name was just too long and wouldn’t be easily relatable, so he removed the CHEESE at the beginning of the name and was left with GALXBOY that most people are familiar with today.

The inspiration and the name for the design of GALXBOY is basically an equation of what girls do because of boys and what boys do because of girls.

In 2011, through a Chinese supplier he got on Alibaba, he took a chance and made 500 red and blue caps with the new GALXBOY logo that costed him a dollar each, the money to pay for all of this came from his father.

Vuittots managed to sell like 250 of them and failed to sell the remaining half, so it dawned on him that he had to come up with a marketing strategy in order to gain some traction for the new brand.

So he used a September Homecoming event as an opportunity to get his brand out there. During the event, instead of selling, he gave out the caps for free to anyone he met, in exchange, he took their pictures wearing that cap, and also asked them to follow GALXBOY on social media.

Interning For Ama Kip Kip

He posted all the pictures and that had people talking, so much so that even Nkosana offered him a contract worth R6000 per month to design the winter collection for Ama Kip Kip.

Vuittots refused and countered with his own offer instead. With less responsibilities and youthful age by his side, he told Nkosana that he’ll intern a year for free if he mentors him and shows him the ropes. So in exchange for designing Ama Kip Kip’s 2012 winter collection, Nkosana plugged him with everything he knows.

After 2 years of studying Auditing, he had switched to Retail Management and studied for another 2 years before dropping out in 2012 to focus exclusively on making GALXBOY a success.

It was just too difficult to juggle between studying, interning for Ama Kip Kip and also building his own brand. However before dropping out, Vuittots asked his parents to give him atleast year to prove that GALXBOY can become a success and if that didn’t happen, he’d go back to University to finish the course and get a job. Of course that didn’t happen.

One day he received a call from Nkosana that in two weeks’ time, he’ll be going to China for work purposes, so if he can come up with R10 000 for flight tickets, he can tag along and he’ll cover the rest of the expenses.

He called his father and everything was set. Before flying, Nkosana told him to get his own stuff ready, so in the week leading up to that, he made sure everything relating to GALXBOY was set, from the designs, logos, winter and summer collection.

So together with Nkosana and rapper Da Les, Vuittots went to China to check clothing factories and material suppliers for Ama Kip Kip’s new clothing range.

When they got there, he was impressed by the quality he saw, China was like a new world to him, it was so different from his country of birth, everything was busy and moving.

After doing the Ama Kip Kip range, he also gave his own GALXBOY designs to the manufacturers in order to come up with samples which costed around R12 000 to R20 000, and was paid for by Nkosana. However, Vuittots couldn’t come back with the first samples immediately, they were later shipped to South Africa.

After receiving them, he did a photo shoot for the samples and were positively received by the market. This gave him so much confidence and made him realize he needed serious capital to get GALXBOY to the top.

A friend of his called Scelo whom he met through another friend was interested in GALXBOY, he liked the brand and everything, so Vuittots sold him 20% of the company for R100 000.

He went back to China again by himself, met with the manufacturers and got the clothes done. They were shipped in September and dropped at a street cred event in the same month.

At the time, it was simple formula for Vuittots, he wanted GALXBOY out there. He sold most of the range and the brand started gaining popularity not only in Pretoria but the rest of Gauteng, and was also was being recognized by brands that he looked up to.

He was using his father’s car to deliver the orders. Wherever he went with the car, he made sure to load up stock and sell whenever an opportunity presented itself during events, festivals, chillas spots, national parks et cetera.

Artists started approaching him saying they needed some of his gear for music videos and photoshoots, and since he was already familiar with most of the cats in the music industry, it was very easy for them to post GALXBOY organically because they actually liked the product.

Hip Hop acts such as Anatii, Khuli Chana and DJ Dimplez were some of the standard supporters. More brands started recognizing his efforts in the game and Castle Lite, one of South Africa’s best selling beer brand, approached him to produce limited edition merchandise as part of their experience for the first annual Castle Lite Unlocks Experience.

Castle Lite X GALXBOY

He has since collaborated with brands like MTV Base, Smirnoff, VW South Africa on their Polo Vivo Mswenko Campaign, and more recently, Nedbank to create Youth X, a movement designed to unlock youth potential.

These milestones allowed GALXBOY to pivot, it was no longer just a clothing brand but a fully functional business. The brand has evolved into more of a supplier and manufacture in the local context.

Hatfield Store

Fumani Holdings

By late 2013, he was approached by 2 investors from Fumani Holdings, who wanted to invest and essentially expand the brand by opening up a store in Hatfield and more afterwards. Vuittots met with them and they struck a deal.

Under terms of the deal, GALXYBOY which by then was a registered company, retained 60% ownership while Fumani Holdings took home the remaining 40%. It was agreed that Vuittots would handle the creative side, while Fumani dealt with running the business.

GALXBOY former store in Hatfield, Pretoria

The store hit the ground running and made over R100 000 on the first day of opening. By the end of 2014, GALXBOY had made between R2 to R5 million in total revenue.

However by 2017, trouble started to creep in, the investors dishonored the agreement and wanted to dictate creative direction of the brand which of course angered Vuittots.

In response to this, he systematically destroyed his own company knowing very well that age(again) was on his side and also the fact that, if he can grow a brand once, he certainly can do it again.

As a result, the GALXBOY store in Hatfield shut down. Of course the investors didn’t wanna go down without a fight and demanded that he pay them their money back which he refused because the money had run out at that point. Since there was no formal separation, GALXBOY couldn’t run as a business.

Vuittots faced the harshest punishment any Entrepreneur could face. From 2017 to 2020, he couldn’t do much but sit at home and not only absorb the failure but reflect on it too. He also came up with new designs and direction for the brand, as well as studying a free online course in luxury and fashion management to gain more knowledge.

Rising From The Ashes

GALXBOY was owing taxes and this affected other businesses Fumani Holdings was running. Wanting to solve this mess, the investors eventually contacted him to sign some papers, Vuittots used that as leverage and told them he’ll only sign if they dissolve their 40% stake in GALXBOY, to which they agreed and just like that, the brand was back where it belongs.

Upon reflection, Vuittots said that was a gift from GOD.

Since the country was under lockdown regulations due to covid-19 breakout, he setup an online store, galxboy.co.za and then one of South Africa’s greatest entrepreneurial come back stories began.

TRACE X GALXBOY

Vuittots was fortunate enough to land a design job for Trace TV at this point, which he got paid around R70 000 and used all of that money to order 900 t-shirts and started selling on the store basically. From then onwards, he went into sunglasses, handbags, sandals and bucket hats which to this day sell out like hotcakes.

Another important factor in the success of GALXBOY is teamwork. Vuittots understood that he couldn’t do it alone and he surrounded himself with a talented and dedicated team.

In January 2022, he launched a pick up point inside a store at Co Space Entrepreneur Village in Pretoria East. He did that for several months and built up enough cash reserves to open an actual store in Menlyn Park Shopping Center in July 2022.

After working in a 60 square meters garage with no lights for some a while, Vuittots and the team moved to a new 800 meters square warehouse in February 2022.

GALXBOY store in Menlyn Park Shopping Center

With over 70 employees now, the company has since launched 2 more physical store in the Free State and Cape Town, with 2 more stores set to open in Limpopo and Mpumalanga during the month of October, and another one in Durban somewhere in November of this year.

Creating a successful brand is never easy. It takes hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to take risks. GALXBOY has faced its share of challenges along the way, but Vuittots and his team have always stayed true to their vision. They have continued to innovate and push the boundaries of what streetwear can be, and as a result, they have built a loyal following of fans who love the brand’s unique style and message.

One of the keys to the success of GALXBOY is Thatiso Dube’s vision. He understands the youth culture in South Africa and has a deep understanding of what drives young people. He saw an opportunity to create a brand that spoke to this audience and he seized it. From the beginning, he knew that he wanted GALXBOY to be more than just a clothing brand. He wanted it to be a movement that would inspire young people to be their best selves.

So what’s next for GALXBOY? Well let’s let the creative director and founder of the brand, Thatiso Dube aka Mr Cheeseboy himself, explain it by his own words so that you can believe us.

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