Tshepo Jeans is a premium lifestyle brand offering a wide range of denim and cotton products. The core of the brand is firmly rooted in the ready-to-wear denim segment for men.
Tshepo Jeans’ story starts in Tsakane, a township near the City of Ekurhuleni – in sight of the mining mounds that spread the fame of denim.
In the 19th century Levi Strauss made a fortune supplying riveted jeans to mine workers and coincidentally Tshepo Mohlala also makes jeans for the stylish in the city of gold.
Tshepo’s love for fashion started at an early age at home where he was raised by his mother, aunt & grandmother and each of them playing a part in making him the person he’s become today.
From his grandmother, the dictum: You are a gentleman and you always have to look like one. From his aunt the love of fashion as a way to express who you are. And from his mother a desire to succeed.
A classic pair of jeans never goes out of style. The right pair can stay in your wardrobe for years—decades, even.
“The most beautiful thing about jeans is that everybody wears jeans, denim has no race: it’s a fabric that can unify the world.”
Tshepo launched Tshepo Jeans in 2015 as a way to take the jean and recontextualize it within the African landscape. Since the brand’s inception, it has become one of South Africa’s most popular denim labels.
Born in Lydenburg, Mpumalanga, Tshepo was raised by his single mother and grandparents in Tsakane, east of Johannesburg.
“Growing up in Tsakane wasn’t the best but thinking about it today, I had an amazing childhood. Though I come from a previously disadvantaged background and becoming Tshepo Jeans was not an easy process – from selling jeans out of my backpack, running away from landlords, going to bed with no food it was the part of my journey that taught me to stay focussed and keep my eyes on the prize.”
After matriculating in 2009 at Brakpan High School with a love to create, Tshepo enrolled at AFDA in pursuit of film. During the course of the year, he developed a burning desire for fashion and clothing.
He then dropped out to study fashion design at the University of Johannesburg but due to financial struggles, he was forced to drop out again, but that did not stop him from pursuing his dream.
“I worked at a call centre and at a boutique shop to keep going. The struggle pushed me to try to make a name for myself. I chose this path and I promised my family that I would make something of it.” Along the way he picked up contacts in the fashion industry like Felipe Mazibuko, a well-known stylist, who became his first mentor.”
In 2013, Tshepo’s personal brand started growing and guys from Street Cred saw him walking past and asked him for an interview. 6 months later, they asked him to be their main stylist.
“It was fulfilling doing something that I was passionate about. I then started working on the African Swizz brand with two of my friends, Thato and Vusi. In February 2014 we got an investor and in 2015, when I was 23, we show cased at the South African Fashion Week and we were dubbed the new kings of denim.”
In June 2015, he parted ways with the business to focus more on growing his own brand. This is when Tshepo The Jean Maker was conceived.
“It was hard not having any source of income and I knew that if I went back home I would get pressure from home to look for a job instead of trying to build a business. What made it challenging was that I experienced a bit of money and fame before.”
With a loan of R8 000, he started the Tshepo Jeans in November 2015 with only 100 pairs of jeans.
“I used to sell them from my backpack. Then the business grew, and I used to do deliveries on a bike.”
It took him about six months to finally sell all of them. Three months later, Forbes called him to do a feature, and then Destiny Man and Drum Magazine followed suit.
Since then, Tshepo Jeans has seen massive success in South Africa and beyond.
In late 2020, Mohlala opened a flagship store in Hyde Park Corner, one of Johannesburg’s top shopping malls known for housing luxury brands. In June 2022, at the inaugural Top 16 Youth-Owned Brands Awards (YOBA). Tshepo Jeans not only won an award as the Top Overall Brand, but also won Top Apparel Brand.
Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs??
“My success tips are do something that is simple for you. I went into the jeans space because it’s second nature to me. Do something that you are passionate about because that is the only thing that will keep you going through challenging times. It’s also important to find creative ways to monetise your passion because at the end of the day we all need to make a living, and it’s even better making money doing what you really love.”
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