After 10 Years in Business D.O.P.E Founder is Ready to Grow His Fashion Brand the Right Way
Streetwear designer and D.O.P.E founder and creative director, Andile Cele has always set his eye on growth, but only if it’s the right kind of growth.
Cele started out selling t-shirts and caps – this grew into a semi-full collection and eventually a full line. When he was ready to start selling his products in a retail store, Cele says he struggled to find the right fit.
“I couldn’t find a store that I felt comfortable selling my brand from,” Cele says in an interview with Zkhiphani. As a result Cele went on to launch his own store which is located on Commissioner Street, Johannesburg.
The menswear fashion line produces luxe streetwear with a focus on tracksuits, T-shirts and sneakers and will next year celebrate 10 years in the game.
We caught up with him to find out what fuels his desire for growth.
Where did it all start?
It came about from my love for fashion and sneakers. We started with caps, T-shirts then grew from there.
I moved to England for three years to learn the trade since I was a self-taught designer. I worked for a UK retailer called NEXT then I came back and started the D.O.P.E store in 2009 which at first housed a collective of local designer brands. The business grew to collaborate with big brands like Converse and graced the SA Fashion Week runway.
One part of the D.O.P.E brand is retail. The store houses a collection of various design houses, the second part is the D.O.P.E, the fashion label where we design our own products.
Have you considered franchising as a way to grow your business?
I will never franchise the brand and it’s simply because of the dynamics of the business. Unlike food franchises (bulk purchase discounts, same menu, etc) that are a plug and play anywhere, with us, D.O.P.E is made possible by a collaborative effort between the brand and designer influences from that city who bring the street culture. So a D.O.P.E store in Johannesburg won’t be the same as a D.O.P.E store in Ghana, for example.
Franchising a new urban street brand is difficult especially when the brand is still small, you don’t really start a brand to franchise it, you start a brand to be profitable first then see where it goes.
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What are your growth and expansion plans?
Firstly my plan is to have many stores across Africa and even beyond that are controlled centrally from a head office. That’s key for a brand of this nature which is based around the culture.
On the retail side, we will continue with the multi-brand D.O.P.E store that we famous for, we will be taking it to other cities in the next few years.
We are also planning to launch an experimental concept store that will sell the D.O.P.E label only. The plan is to have them run parallel to each other, then grow both stores to other areas across the country as per demand.
So it might look like we franchising the brand, but it’s not – it’s just different variation of the brand. We not yet ready for malls, we still want to be in the streets so our stores will be where the people are.
On the clothing side, last the last four years I have been focusing on growing the D.O.P.E clothing label and we planning to continue doing that and do more brand collaborations on a bigger scale.
So loyal followers can look out for that as well as great collaborations with awesome brands.