Tshepo ‘the Jean Maker’ Mohlala is quickly becoming one of the most recognisable names in South Africa.

Mohlala started his denim empire Tshepo Jeans with an R8 000 loan from a friend and grew it into an international business enterprise. The 27-year-old from Tsakane, Johannesburg, states that the township inspired him to dream big because of its dire socio-economic conditions.  

With minimal resources in place, Mohlala created the company’s first pair of jeans which he dubbed The Presidential Slim Fit. Only one hundred pairs of jeans were produced initially and it took the budding entrepreneur six months to sell them all.

According to Mohlala, the brand focuses on traditional functional 5-pockets jeans with a touch of modernism.  

Infographic by TYI

“We look at whether it is practical, that it’s functional and that it must tell a story. The mere fact that we’ve got Tshepo on them already tells a story of where I come from,” says Mohlala in a Times Live interview.

Based at the Victoria Yard in Newtown, Tshepo Jeans’s top clients are Donovan Goliath, rappers Khuli Chana and Stogie T, artist Ayanda Mabulu, DJ Oskido and even Nando’s co-founder Robert Brozin.

“All our clients are people with influence, people who have broken different boundaries in different spaces,” he says.