Malibongwe Tyilo recently won the Marie Claire Prix de la Mode for best South African fashion blog. His site, Skattie What are you Wearing? is a collection of photographs and musings on a very particular South African scene. We catch up with him to find out exactly who he is and what it means for him to have won the prize.
In a sentence, who are you?
I am 32yrs old, I live in Cape Town, Seapoint, with my partner and our two cats. I work as a Fashion Buyer for a retailer.
How did you get into your career?
I completed a Fashion Design Diploma at Lisof and like most youngens fresh out of college I had major delusions of grandeur, I thought I'd be a well-known and super successful fashion designer in absolutely no time.
Fashion school can do that to you.
So when my friends got into buying I rejected it as selling out. After messing around for a coupla years and getting absolutely nowhere, I went on to study multimedia design which kinda cultivated a love of images and all things digital.
But I was in a funny space back then and the party was way more important than studies - I stuck with it for a year but only really attended half the necessary classes. Needless to say, I never got to the qualification bit for multimedia but I went on to work for a mickey mouse start-up agency that flopped 10 months after it opened.
A friend who was doing buying at a retailer encouraged me to apply for a position as a trainee buyer. This was five years after I'd graduated and a lot can change in that time, plus life had taught me a few lessons. Gone were the 'famous designer' delusions of a fashion graduate fresh out of college, I was super eager to get into buying, and now I absolutely love it.
When did you decide to start blogging? Was it a conscious decision?
I started in March 2010, I'd thought about it a little before then but not very specifically.
I wasn't much of a blog follower before I started, in fact I didn't follow any blogs, I'd just seen them a few times when friends sent me links to things they liked.
But one day I was sitting at work and I thought 'let me actually just do it'. I'm surrounded by friends and acquaintances who are very passionate about style and I've always wanted a way to show off their style and their vibe because it inspires and fascinates me so. Also because I absolutely love the arts and my partner Athi-Patra Ruga is an artist, the two of us tend to go to a lot of art exhibitions and the style is almost always interesting, I wanted to share that too.
Explain more about the premise behind Skattie?
I think a little bit of the answer above semi-answers this question, but I would like to add-on that it's kind of grown organically and so has the idea behind it.
At first it was mainly about my friends but now I am excited about showing the style that exists generally and beyond my circle of friends. I am so excited by people who play around with the idea of style, people who feel a need to express themselves beyond the prescribed trends.
If you're into fashion i think it would be a bit disingenuous to claim that you are not influenced by fashion themes, it's what you do with them that sets you apart.
I see a lot of people who claim that they are not into trends and yet they're always on point with the fashion forward themes and I think they need to be a little more honest, if not with us then at least with themselves.
I do not make a living from the blog, and the advantage of that is that it's allowed the blog to becomes a space where I can say absolutely what I want without the influence of market forces, a truthful space for myself if you will, but I do love the validation that comes from knowing that others are entertained by the blog.
Do you think this gives it a point of differentiation from being ‘just another blog’?
To be honest with you, understanding what keeps it from being 'just another blog' is an ongoing question for me.
I try to pinpoint it because obviously I don't want to lose it. Nor do I want it to become stale. I check a lot of blogs and I am always trying to understand what excites me about the ones that I love, and what bores me about the rest. So I try to bring through what excites me into the blog and cut out what bores me and I'm slowly learning to not blog out of desperation, just for the sake of content.
I also find that except for a couple I really don't enjoy overseas blogs, I like South African blogs with local content, I relate far better to them, which is why it's important for me to use SA content and I think that adds to that 'point of differentiation'.
There is of course a lot to learn from the super successful international bloggers and I check to learn how they explore the content they love. But I do not necessarily want to duplicate their content.
What does winning the Marie Claire Prix de la Mode award mean for you?
It's fantastic because it lets one know that one's 'peers' approve of the standard of work. It's all good and well to be like "I'm expressing myself and I don't care what you think", but the reality is that validation does a lot for one's headspace, motivation, and confidence. And the Prix award has been the best bit of validation so far, and on a practical level it is good for the numbers (blogosphere can be very lonely without traffic) and access to events where I can capture even more of what I think is interesting personal style.
Well my day job is my No. 1 focus career wise, I love it and iIdon't see myself leaving it anytime soon. As for the blog, it's taught me a lot about myself and my love of the 'cultural space'.so I would like to see it becoming a meaningful part of the culture.
Last year I launched a print version of the blog made up pics from the blog accompanied by contributions from various creatives including designer David West and artist Athi-Patra Ruga. I printed a few copies and also made it available as a PDF download on the blog. I am currently working on the second issue, I've got an even wider cross-section of contributors coming through and the idea is to use it as a showcase for the new school of SA creative thought and processes.
As for the blog itself, well i still have so much to learn, I'd love to go on a photography course so I can move beyond the auto setting on my camera, I think that would give me the opportunity to take much more interesting pics. I'd also love to do a writing course, I think it's important that I learn the rules so I can break a few.
For more pics and Skattie's take on the Marie Claire Prix de la Mode event please click here