Back in 2005, friends Wandile Zondo and Galebowe Mahlatsi came together with the intention of making authentically Soweto-inspired street wear. Thesis Lifestyle was born, with its first retail space opening up in Mofolo, Soweto, in 2007. Fast-forward to 2016 and Thesis Lifestyle markets a hugely popular apparel brand made by their in-house design team. They continue to cultivate a huge following through their lifestyle events and recently extended to a second retail space in Kagiso, a township west of Joburg.
At the core of their business is the clothing line comprising pants, jackets, bucket hats and graphic T-shirts, which are especially popular. One of their bestsellers is a T-shirt with the words “Phiri, Mapetla, Zola & Mndeni” emboldened on the front, a reference to a popular kwaito song by Tokollo Magesh, which gives a nod to four neighbourhoods in Soweto.
“People identify with the T-shirt because it’s uniquely Sowetan and South African and it’s also better than the ‘I love’ T-shirts you get worldwide,” says Mahlatsi. Their expansion into events started back with the Thesis Social Jam Session, held every first Sunday outside the Soweto store from 2008-2012. The idea was inspired by a podcast by British DJ Gilles Peterson called Live At The K-Swiss Store, which made the pair want to bring together all the up-and-coming DJs, artists and comedians in their own vicinity.