Social media has been crucial to our success: designers Quiteria & George
A favourite with celebrities, this design duo prove tenacity pays off in the fashion biz
The fashion industry can be a cut-throat environment with high barriers to entry, as the duo behind the brand Quiteria & George have discovered since establishing their haute couture house.
In an interview at their Melville studio in Johannesburg, the brand's George Malelu says at the start it often felt like they weren't welcome.
"There's a lot we heard through the grapevine about the industry chatter," says the designer. "Although we're now just business partners, when we started we were dating and that was a bit controversial. We heard that people were saying things like we wouldn't last and 'they think they're Dolce & Gabbana'."
Their tenacity has paid off. Starting in 2013, their brand has grown to become a favourite with celebrities, often popping up on red carpets at some of the country's biggest events on both the entertainment and fashion calendars.
Earlier in the year Quiteria & George made their fashion week debut at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Cape Town, a show they had only two weeks to put together.
In spite of the short time they were given by the organisers who invited them to showcase at a late stage, the duo decided it was a worthwhile thing to do for the growth of their five-year-old haute couture house. "There's a credibility that comes with showcasing at fashion week, so we thought it was a great idea to take on the opportunity," George says.
Recently, the duo showcased at Lusaka July, Zambia's Durban July equivalent.
Some of the celebrities they count among their clients include Minnie Dlamini, Chichi Letswalo and Dineo Moeketsi. Bonang Matheba has also been spotted in the duo's often elaborate and glamourous creations.
Dressing celebrities has been a great marketing tool, but it's Instagram that George credits with making word about their work spread like wildfire. "We've seen that when Dineo Moeketsi posts an image wearing one of our creations we get a lot of curvy women making inquiries, so social media has been crucial to our success."
We've seen that when Dineo Moeketsi posts an image wearing one of our creations we get a lot of curvy women making inquiries, so social media has been crucial to our success.George Malelu of Quiteria & George
While the now successful partnership with Quiteria Kekana was formalised in 2013, Malelu's first foray into fashion was back in 2009 when the then fashion design student showcased at Mpumalanga Fashion Week. This is where Kekana first spotted him and would years later propose a partnership.
"I dropped out of school for Mpumalanga Fashion Week. I thought, you know, once you showcase at a fashion week you've made it, but it doesn't work like that. Following Mpumalanga Fashion Week I had to get a job in retail because things didn't quite turn out the way I thought they would."
Although that seemed to be a major step backwards, if the success they're now enjoying as a duo is anything to go by, Quiteria & George is a fashion partnership that was written in the stars.
• This article was originally published in The Times.