By Nombuso Nkambule (@hrh_nombuso)
A conversation about African Fashion International (AFI), cab rides with Victoria’s Secret models, working with Ozwald Boateng and the hustle behind the fashion industry with fashion creative and stylist, Thabo ‘Bluebird’ Mafisa.
How did your journey to ‘Being Bluebird’ begin?
I grew up in Edenvale, my first big break came during my gap year when I was working for Euro Suit in Inanda, Johannesburg as a menswear consultant. I met Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe at the store while she was looking for a suit for her sons matric dance. So I seized the opportunity and asked for an internship at African Fashion International (AFI). I worked for AFI for close to four years on a freelance basis, and I was able to find my niche within the industry. The level of exposure Dr. Moloi-Motsepe provided for me is the main reason why I was able to stay and thrive within the fashion industry.
What is De Blouse Vintage?
De Blouse Vintage is a Johannesburg based fashion creative agency under the leadership of Thabo Bluebird. After having worked in the fashion industry for almost 6 years, I wanted to start a venture on my own which will provide me with creative freedoms. It mainly started off with my friends asking me where I got my clothes from, and asking me to style them. So I started a vintage pop up store at Kitcheners in Braamfontein, where people could buy clothing and meet up with me to set up appointments to style them for events, shoots and music videos.
What have some of your coolest experiences been so far?
I have been fortunate enough to work with the likes of Samuel Lambert, Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist) and Ozwald Boateng. I also got to meet some of the people I have idolised since childhood. One of my favourite experiences was when Victoria’s Secret Models, Sessilee Lopez and Yasmin Warsame, and I shared a cab to the Saxon Hotel from the Sandton Convention Centre for a fashion week after party. There were about seven people in the cab and we were all crammed in there, but we were determined to get to that after party. It reminded me of what kind of people make it in this industry, you have to be determined.
You are a Fashion Creative, how did you become ‘Bluebird’ at Shashi Naidoo’s Johannesburg based agency, Alushi Models?
The industry is also about evolving, so even though I consider myself a stylist above all, I currently work as a Fashion Creative at Johannesburg modelling agency, Alushi Models. Alushi advertised for a position, and since I was working for myself (De Blouse Vintage), I saw this as a great opportunity to expand my skills and learn about another aspect of the fashion industry. It is very important to me to know about every aspect of the fashion industry, and modelling is not one that I had been fully exposed to. Hanging around with models and working with them on shoots is very different to managing them.