Vintage girl on the rise

Self-taught stylist, designer and fashion buyer Thuli Mola fills us in on how her modern vintage clothing business Style Alert came about, as well as the best ways to use social media to market your brand

During her days as an advertising sales executive for Thebe Exhibitions and Projects, Thuli Mola assumed the only way to pursue her interest in fashion would be through working for a glossy magazine. Like the born stylist that she is, every morning she’d add a vintage element to her outfits, completely oblivious to the fact that she was in fact starting a fashion movement. It was only after she was retrenched from her nine-to-five that she remembered how people would always ask where she bought her vintage clothing from.

Every day, she’d post photos of her Outfit Of The Day, otherwise known as OOTD in social media jargon, and the requests for her exclusive fashion items would clog up her comments section. Spotting a massive gap in the fashion market, Thuli hosted her first pop-up store at her home in Dube, Soweto in December 2011. And since then, her journey as a player in the local fashion industry has grown from strength to strength. And this includes being one of the semi-finalists in Woolworths’ StylebySA campaign that launches next month.

You run your business from various social media platforms. How did you grow your social media following?
I’m currently sitting at over 50 000 likes on Facebook and close to 15 000 followers on Instagram, and I can guarantee you that there hasn’t been a strategy behind the success of my social media accounts. The fact that I can translate a runway look into everyday wear for ordinary women like myself, using the clothes I sell of course, is what grows my social media following.

How do you keep your clients coming back?
It’s simple, treat your clients like gold and you’ll be amazed at the power of word of mouth advertising. I’d like to believe that I’ve taken fashion to new levels through my variety in styling and the kinds of looks that I sell to my followers daily. For instance, very few stores sell wide-leg pants, high-waisted pants, jumpsuits or distressed denim. These are just a few of the classic styles available at Style Alert – and they’re not seasonal.

ThuliMola3 copyHow much has the business grown since its inception?
With the high demand for the vintage clothing I sold, I had to tweak my business model slightly. For instance, I would post a high-waisted leather skirt on Facebook and Instagram and have twenty women wanting to bid for one item as though they were at an auction. I realised that my business wouldn’t grow if I continued with that model. So instead of only sourcing clothing, I now make one-of-a-kind vintage items from scratch under my label Style Alert. With no design background whatsoever, I bought machines and promised myself I’d figure things out along the way.

Almost everyone is a fashion blogger or self-made stylist these days. How do you keep ahead of the pack?
There’s no exclusivity anymore because there are so many of us selling clothes on social media of late. But instead of getting caught up in social media gossip about who owns a certain trend, I keep reinventing my label by adding new ranges all the time. It’s important to constantly surprise clients with new and exciting items, so I recently added a swimwear range. Social media offers a great platform for small businesses to grow.

Tips for running a successful business on social media:

  • Marketing experts tell us to always be aware of what our competitors are doing, but I disagree. I believe that looking at what the next person is doing only adds unnecessary pressure, which then makes it difficult to focus on your own vision.
  • Passion may sound like a cliché because it’s one of those terms thrown around so often, but it is what will make you get up and manage your social media page on days when you don’t feel like doing anything.
  • Needs are there to be satisfied. Give your followers what they need and they’ll keep coming back for more (They may even bring their friends, family and colleagues with them).

To see more of what Style Alert has on offer, visit:

Facebook: Style Alert (SA)
Twitter: @StyleAlert_SA
Instagram: stylealert_thuli