IOL Interview: Tomi R riding waves in the fashion industry

This is an excerpt of an article posted on IOL on the 1 August 2017 by THOBILE MAZIBUKO

Tomi R Creations, a representative of “fire, power and dominance” is a fashion brand owned by a young man from The Vaal, Thomas Rikhotso. Established in 2013 with a vision to be his own boss. The brand which produces  African Couture and other wedding ceremony outfits started as a bag making business. After being awarded as best designer at a fashion design learnership, Rikhotso received sponsorship to help him kick start his business. I chatted to Rikhotso, who grew up in  my hood Protea Glen, about his brand and creations.

Tell me us a little about yourself?  My name is actually Thomas Rikhotso but at home they call me Tomi.  I’m 26-years-old I was born and raised in Soweto. I’m am a proud Tsonga man  I had a good childhood and being an introvert that I am, I was always indoors and became close friends with my mom. She was a dressmaker and  that’s when my passion for fashion was born.

Thomas Rikhotso. Picture: Supplied.

She taught me how to use a sewing machine… I even mastered fixing it. Her friends who were also dressmakers would ask me to fix their sewing machines as well. Later on at some point I started a bag making business, then after Matric I got a learnership and that’s  where I gained my formal training with Fumu empowering connections.

What is it that you love the most about fashion? I love fashion because it’s a platform where I get to express my creativity through fabrics and making people look great. There’s nothing so heart warming like clients feeling happy because of your work, not only do you make them look great but you also boost their confidence.

If you weren’t in the fashion industry, which career would you be in? I’d still be  an artist or be in the creative space.  Probably performing arts because that’s what I was so passionate about. I was even on a professional production at some point.

Dress by Tomi R Creations. Picture: Supplied.

What are some of the challenges that you face as a young designer in South Africa?
My challenges as a designer is the mismanagement of funds and administration side of business. I’ve never had proper training in that aspect and being the sole breadwinner at home, the funds that are meant to help my business prosper are used in ensuring that my family is taken well of.

Still on that, there’s a lot of challenges about being in the fashion industry, having to keep up with the latest trends, getting last minute orders and all that, what motivates you to keep going everyday?There’s a lot of pressure indeed and sometimes coming across difficult clients, who are sometimes insecure about their bodies.

I  have to work hard to convince them of what will best work for them and revive their self esteem.  Without passion, I would have long given up, it’s a tough industry, and not for the faint hearted.

Dresses by Tomi R Creations. Picture: Supplied.

I believe that lately you no longer do fashion shows, why is that? It’s not that I no longer do fashion shows as such but I’ve showcased at a lot of fashion shows and I’ve learned that they don’t bring a significant impact in the business.

You’re sometimes required  to start a new collection from your own pocket and only to showcase probably to the wrong target market.  So I prefer photoshoots, they work as a way to showcase my work better because  then I can upload the pictures on social media. But my strongest form of marketing is through my clients, I make sure that whoever my clients are, they get me even more clients.

Black maxi dress by Tomi R. Picture: Supplied.

In that case, what significant impact would you like to see being brought in the fashion industry? A lot of designers have the potential of creating jobs so government should invest more in helping designers create jobs. It shouldn’t just be about having a boutique but it should escalate into having a manufacturing company.

Where do you see the Tomi R Creations brand in the next five years? We can’t predict the future and I’m honestly amazed by how things turned up. When you do what you love and devoted to it you somehow attract good things. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for them to be manifested, I’m a strong believer of Christ, and he’s a faithful God.

Two piece by Tomi R Creations. Picture: Supplied.

Having designed elegant pieces and making people look good, what would you say is unique about your brand? I won’t lie and say there’s something unique about my brand. I’ll say there’s something unique about my personality and that ultimately influences the way my work turns out.  I’m shy but I love it when I come across clients who want to stand out, that’s when my true self and ultimately creativity is revealed.

Last words? Tomi R represents Fire, Power, Dominance yet elegant. Most people don’t know that I have a strong passion for politics and in my spare time I write songs and make beats.

For more about TomiR Creations, visit @tomircreations

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