GLAMOUR caught up with the brand's founder and director Ele Radebe to chat fashion, inclusivity and more.
What was the inspiration behind Ele Apparel and Interiors?
It has taken a while but now is the time we celebrate our rich history and heritage as South Africans/Africans by merely being ourselves through the expression of our life of style in both our image and our homes. As By ELE Apparel & Interiors (Pty) Ltd the brand, we embrace the globe and all it has to offer. We want to play our part and produce expressions through fashion and interiors that are proudly South African and authentically African.
When one looks at your apparel, it caters for every size and body shape, why was that important for you?
As Africans, we are a very diverse people and I believe our apparel should reflect that. Our African men and women have different shapes and sizes, but the industry shuns to recognise their needs and cater to those. Our brand celebrates difference and have answered the call to cater for African bodies rather than dictate what is considered a “normal”/mainstream shape for them.
Can you take through who Ele the man is and what your journey to becoming the founder and owner of Ele Apparel and Interiors?
From a very young age, I have always had an appreciation for beauty especially things that have to do with lifestyle. I remember the days I used to watch Top Billing and dream of immersing myself in the quality of life brought through the homes ad events they covered on the show. However, as I completed my high school career, the country (and the world at large) was hit hit by the surge of HIV/AIDS. I felt compelled to be part of the solution and I was also affected through family members that we lost to the disease. So began my journey that saw me getting into the HIV/AIDS research as I furthered my studies from HIV management to project management.
When I left the medical research field in 2009 after a decade to pursue my creative side. My mission was to merge the two worlds of healing and elevating people from with in to the reflection they see when they look in the mirror and their surround. I studied interior design with the belief that our surroundings reflect not only who we are, but also our aspirations. As I evolved this philosophy organically spilled over from other parts of my life to my apparel. I use this to feel my creations.
My travels have also had a great influence and deeper appreciation for the African continent and what we have to offer the rest of the globe.
As a fashion and interior entrepreneur what has been the hardest part about what you do?
One of the hardest things about being a creative entrepreneur is trusting the process of creating and navigating operating a business at the same time. It has been incredibly helpful to have gathered around me a team that will support my and our journey as a brand.
What has been the most rewarding?
When we see our creations come to life on the runway, it is exhilarating. Also when our customers appreciate our work as they describe how it impacts their lives.
You paid attention to detail in your space in Woodstock where you both sell the garments and also make them, why was it so important that you did that?
Contrary to popular saying, I say, “God is in the detail” because I believe it is a positive attribute. As much as fashion is about image, our brand has chosen to go beyond just the look but tap into the feel even more. Our purpose is to lighten the daily load and elevate our clientele. Each of our garments is a beautiful experience that is rooted in authenticity and uncompromising quality. Our space reflects exactly that.
You have one of the coolest men’s wear brands around, you don’t shy away from being edgy or out of the box. What inspires that?
Oh wow, thank you for that…flattery will get you everywhere lol.
Our brand is for a client that claims his space/purpose/mission and message. This starts the moment he puts on By Ele to stepping out into the world. We believe it is important to stand. When done right, it opens doors beyond imagination. Our designs are a collaboration between the body and mindset. A fusion between busy lifestyles and the ability to remain authentic which shines through By Ele garments. Our collections are a great armour and asset to feeling empowered.
What's your dream for the Ele brand?
Our dream is to grow not only in SA but in the continent and eventually the globe. Our dream is to be known for the quality of our craftsmanship and our authentic approach to design that is proudly South African/African.