Wandile and Wireless G founded the streetwear brand Thesis Lifestyle in Soweto in 2005, and this year marks the 10th anniversary of it’s existence. Thesis is built upon creating a positive influence in the community it was founded in and does so by stocking great clothing, providing a fantastic retail experience and a range of fun activities that include running and music related events. In everything they do, Wandile and Wireless G believe in the power of collaboration while staying true to their catchprase, ‘Define Yourself’. The brand’s current logo draws resembles the Mfolo rainbow bowl at Mofolo Park, near to Thesis’ flagship store.
We caught up with the duo ahead of the Levi’s Pioneer Nation conference this month, where they’ll be sharing more about the rich history of their brand as well as some advice for young, aspiring entrepreneurs.
To begin, tell us about the Thesis Lifestyle journey. How did the venture come about?
Thesis was started in 2005 as a streetwear brand to illustrate a new point of view surrounding street culture in Soweto. We were friends going around Johannesburg buying second hand clothes and we were also inspired by the growth of street culture globally. That’s how the seed to start the brand came about. Thesis has always been a platform for us to express ourselves.
Funding is something that many aspiring entrepreneurs struggle with, but there are smart ways to go about it. How did you fund Thesis Lifestyle in the beginning? What avenues/options would you suggest?
You need to start by investing in your business with the little cash that you do have, which is what we did in the beginning. This is the only way to attract outside investors like family and government institutions. People invest in operational businesses, not great ideas. This world is full of great ideas but only a few become a reality.
What goes into the making of your clothes, from the design process to manufacturing?
Clothing is seasonal so we start by coming up with a theme for each season. Then the design team explores the theme and comes up with a range of designs. From there, it’s sampling and manufacturing.
What characteristics would you say one needs to have to start their own brand?
Passion, resilience and hard, hard work.
These events are a way of staying relevant within street culture, and they’re a way for us to market the brand. They also provide a platform for local artists and DJs to promote themselves.
What other ways do you strive to uplift the community that in turn, supports your brand?
I think more than anything it’s about keeping positive through the activities that we engage in. We also seek to surround the brand with positive and like minded individuals and groups who are looking to move forward in their own right. This extends from running to cycling to community talks and, most importantly, to the way we carry ourselves.
What continually motivates you to wake up every morning to do what you do?
The joys of being able to make other people happy and the fact that what we are doing doesn’t bore us. We strive to continually be an inspiration for others and that serves as a constant reminder that we have to keep pushing.
What is the most important advice you’d give to aspiring young entrepreneurs who want to start their own business?
Always have fun, but make sure that you have a solid understanding of the business that you want to partake in. You need to be able to present your vision to others.
What does it mean to you to be a Pioneer?
Being the first to “do it like we only know how”. Whilst it is known that Thesis Lifestyle was the first street wear store in Soweto, menswear stores have been around in Soweto before. So we were the first to “do it like only we know how”.
What are you looking forward to at Pioneer Nation this year, and what can we expect from your talk?
We’re looking forward to sharing the story of how Thesis came about, and interacting with the crowd around that.
Now that you’ve been in the game for 10 years, how do you plan to continue to grow Thesis Lifestyle going forward?
A horizontal growth, meaning more shops, more personnel, more clothes and more events. At heart, we want the brand to be available in all townships around South Africa, have good distribution of the product around Africa. And we’d like to continue to have fun.