Tlale's reality show puts interns to the test to see if they are cut out for fashion

13 July 2017 - 10:58 By Andrea Nagel
Fashion designer David Tlale hugs his mother, Joyce.
Fashion designer David Tlale hugs his mother, Joyce.

A new show started on SABC3 last night that, considering its star, promises to be a huge hit.

The Intern by David Tlale is a 13-episode reality TV show shot in Johannesburg that follows 12 contestants on their journey to becoming Tlale's next assistant designer.

Tlale launched the show on Saturday in front of select friends and family members in his Maboneng studios, showing a clip of the first episode.

The Intern is hosted by Nico Panagio, who traverses the often difficult space between the interns and the designer, as he informs them of their strengths, but especially their weaknesses, in no uncertain terms.

Although the young students must weather strong criticism of their creations and techniques, the show is committed to nurturing and developing the country's budding talent, giving them an opportunity to hone their skills and put South Africa on the fashion map.

Tlale said that the interns would be assisted and mentored long after the grand finale, which will be aired live in a spectacular two-hour special in October, when the winner will be announced.

''It's not like you can give birth to a child and just let them die," he said in his characteristically dramatic style.

''No, you don't win the prize money from this show to build a house. You win so that you can build a successful brand."

The show will give contestants an opportunity to gain first-hand experience in working with lots of celebrated designers, not just Tlale, and with stylists, photographers and models. ''They'll learn the fashion industry ropes," says Tlale.

The competition is open to skilled and enterprising fashion design graduates, or self-taught designers who have a minimum three years' experience.

''Fashion is at its heart about creating indelible brands and sustainable businesses. This is the life blood of this industry.

"That's why this show, and the internship programme that I've been running for the past four years, are so close to my heart. We're sowing the seeds of greatness," said Tlale.

In each episode, contestants are given a fashion design project and are judged on their work. One participant is eliminated each week.

Tlale's mother, Joyce, who had said "no son of mine is going into fashion", had pride of place at the launch and beamed as her son presented his new show.

''My mom bought me a little Elna sewing machine when I was in university," said the designer.

''Now I have a world-famous brand, I employ 27 people and I'm trying to help others resuscitate the local textile industry through platforms like this one."

Tlale thanked his mother for being there for him even when she didn't believe in his vision.

''In 21 seasons' time, we'll have created over 300 jobs in the industry," Tlale projected.

''This is not a one-night stand."

He emphasised to the interns that behind the glamour there was lots of blood, sweat and tears and that the show would take viewers on the difficult journey from the first threads to the finished collection.

''I've burnt my fingers. I've disappointed and alienated people. I've been criticised but I'm still here," he added.

''I know how to make beautiful clothes. I'm going to motivate and inspire these hopefuls and pressure the government to make the industry come alive again."

Tlale, who started doing an auditing degree before discovering his love of design, said young creatives should set their sights on grafting a South African brand for the international market.

• The Intern airs every Wednesday at 7.30pm on SABC 3

• This article was originally published in The Times.