Small Talk With Stylist And Founder Of Gradwell Couture Bongani Ndlela 

By Joburg Post

Bongani Ndlela known as Bongani Gradwell, was born in Soweto, Rockville; with a generational talent in sewing and fashion design, bequeathed from his grandmother. After high school, he continued his studies in Fashion design at the Central Johannesburg College in Parktown. His love for fashion design and building a fashion line began at an early stage where he had his own label known as ‘Milkshake’, which was the foundation ofhis current project, ‘Gradwell Couture’. 

As a designer, from where do you draw your inspiration?
We as designers draw inspiration from different people and things, I for one am inspired by many things, such as international brands, but my style for one is very clean and I normally use subtle colours. In addition, I am inspired by my clients with what they require, without me having to design, but creating what my clients want. 

What kind of clients do you work with and the styles in which they appreciate?
I design clothes and style different people with different taste in fashion, this year I started dressing 

The Soil for the Metro Awards as well as styling music videos and I style the Genetic Movers a dance crew from Rockville; their style is very street very comfortable and modern. I also dress The Sun Xa Experiment they are more African inspired as an acoustic jazz group and their style is also centred around African style prints. As a designer and stylist, I’ve developed a fashion sense for different tastes and styles to execute the designs and styles that my different clients would like.

What were the challenges you faced from starting a brand like Milkshake and later developing into Gradwell Couture?
Milkshake was a baby brand therefore I hadn’t known about the business of fashion, it was a street concept that made sense at the time, and having not registered the brand nor having not made it a trade mark potential investors found it hard to invest in it because it was not registered and that was the challenge in growing it. However, with GC I am surrounding myself with the relevant people such as other designers, also learning the business behind fashion as this is a registered trademark, I have become much more business skilled and knowledgeable. Right now, I am also investing a lot of myself and time in growing GC, whereas with Milkshake it was just a cool thing to do at that time. 

What are your plans for the future?
I’m looking to grow the brand right now, as I am currently doing everything, from marketing, to the sewing and designing, however by next year I want to get seamstresses to help me out because I am needed in many different areas that require my time in order to grow the brand. Also, I want GC to have its own factory and perhaps going into the clothing industry; with a broader approach either than just garments, I want build from this to accessories, shoes and hats.  I want to create a big brand and build GC to its full potential by being relevant and consistent, nonetheless; the shop is coming soon!! 


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