While Covid-19 is wreaking havoc in most parts of the world, Andile Cele keeps his head in the game by continuing to push his DOPE designs into the streets and online space.
As most interviews conducted these days, I zoom in on the life and ongoings of South African designer and concept store entrepreneur, Andile Cele, aka @scotchisdope. Hailing from Durban and now residing in Johannesburg, South Africa, Andile's DOPE Store (as the name suggests) is nothing less than fresh.
Streetwear has always been a passion for the youth culture of South Africa. Within the streets, basketball courts and skateparks, Andile reminisces of how he wanted to bridge the gap for sportswear and fashion, a style that didn't exist within South Africa in the early 90s. "We are an African tennis story," Andile declares. He continues to explain how, through research and brainstorming, he wanted to play the streetwear game from a young age, "so DOPE Store became a fashion brand and a merger of all subcultures."
The concept of batting for both style teams is how he produced the DOPE Store logo. By starting off making t-shirts and caps for his friends, through hard training, resilience and practice, he expanded his designs to live in a concept store. One can say that this fashion player has managed to show off his skill on many courts.
Asserting his brand through his concept store, located on 81 De Korte Street, 2001 Johannesburg, Andile's business strategy reexamines the retail and streetwear business models. He bounces the ideas around and serves it back with a strong backhand right back over the net to the South African retail market. "I'm trying to do like a limited edition store where all the best sneakers, dopest accessories and real streetwear exist," he tells me passionately through the computer screen.
He was the first to do so, from an early age, by marrying subcultures that weren't readily available in post-Apartheid South Africa. Around the early 2000s, he launched his first store, Oli Skateboards. It came in as an answer to provide lifestyle, streetwear fashion that merged the skating & basketball subcultures of that time. "South Africa was so far out, you know. The distribution companies didn't care about us," he informs me. At the time when the hip-hop scene continued to thrive, and Air Jordon's were the desired shoes on the courts, Andile sought out a fashion lifestyle that speaks to the conscious rappers of the time and marries all the subcultures into one holistic streetwear label. DOPE Store became that. He found that lifestyle journey. "I had to do it! It was up to me believe that I was going to do this thing," Andile says proudly. Such an unrivalled passion led him to open his concept store in 2009, a first for South African streetwear retail.
With a high 'serving' of streetwear products, he collaborates with local textile producers, as well as international ones. When asked how his game's tactics work to decide whom he collaborates with, Andile's proclaims, "Oh man, I just want quality! If you say and show you are the best, then I am loyal to you. I'm loyal to the best. If tomorrow, you're not the best in the game, then I'm gone." Like a professional athlete, always striving to push the limits, it's as if he's trying to be the Agassi of South African streetwear. There is no doubt that Andile builds his business through everyday routines and practice, and Covid-19 hasn't lowered his stamina either. For him, the quality of production, the quality of the material and the quality of how long it lasts is key to his DOPE brand's performance, with a DOPE twist, of course. Whilst the pandemic has put some productions on halt, he has redirected his focus other aspects of his business. A player in the fashion game, he understands the significance of pushing a fine product, even if it's not visible in the streets right now – due to South Africa's strict quarantine lockdown.
Like most African fashion businesses, Covid-19 has left him refocusing his energy into the online business side of things. With this setback, alongside receiving a backhand from the South African Fashion Institute – where he was informed 30 minutes before the show that he won't be able to showcase his SS18 collection – he perseveres and with the mindset of an athlete, Andile takes this as an opportunity for the ball to fall back into his court. "My support system is me," he firmly says, "I want to champion African excellence that goes beyond products."
Andile's morale is unrivalled. He is a creative businessman and a designer who refocuses triggers into key successes. His streetwear apparel stays true to the South African hustling spirit, and his brand continues to play with excellence in the Johannesburg courts