Front row with Thapelo Vena of Babysitter
My next interviewee for the FRM Blog is extremely well-versed within a variety of creative disciplines. Thapelo Vena is a Rustenberg-born, Vaal-raised, Johannesburg creative who spearheads the exciting local streetwear brand, Babysitter, which has returned with an enthralling collaboration with local football club Beke Le Beke FC – in what I can only described as a genuine infusion of South African Kasi creativity.
This collaboration springs about within a season where – globally – the fashion ecosystem we exist in has begun to contextualise the relationship between fashion & football. From Martine Rose's football shirts, to our very own Loverboys FC football regalia (shorts and all), and more – we are beginning to witness the true marriage of two completely separate disciplines, sports and fashion. And the new Babysitter x Beke Le Beke FC collaboration is here to remind us of the complementary nature of this collision between two "seemingly" different worlds.
In anticipation of the final drop, Thapelo had the following to say about the reasoning for the collaboration:
"What's unique about the new drop is that this is something that has never been done before where I come from, which is the collaboration of a streetwear brand and a local football club."
According to me, Babysitter is the future of South African streetwear. Much like Shwelabana, the core & essence of their brand identity is the realisation that where you are from matters – a lot. South African culture, whether it be sports-related, or artistic, is extremely original – it isn't replicable and it also belongs to us – its ours. So witnessing the coming together of an authentic local football club with all of its culture, combined with an emerging streetwear brand which is destined to attain global attention, is so beautiful to witness and experience.
And luckily for us – the collaboration finally drops to public audience, inviting us to join this world of authentic local culture summarised in clothing & football fanaticism.
The Babysitter x Beke Le Beke FC collaboration comes in the form of a dark camo-print T-shirt which is available for sale from tonight, 31 January 2023, via the Babysitter Instagram account. And I had the absolute pleasure of virtually engaging Thapelo in order to hear more about the latest drop, why he chose to focus on a collaboration with a local football team, where people can cop the latest drop, and more.
Would you mind introducing yourself and including a short description of what you do?
TV: My name is Thapelo Vena, 23 years of age, born in Rustenburg and later moved to be raised in Sebokeng, The Vaal. I'm a qualified fashion designer, graphic designer, creative director and I'm also currently running my own clothing line.
Where did the inspiration to form 'Babysitter' come about?
TV: I've always been fascinated by clothes (streetwear to be specific) since a young age. In my teenage years is where I realised that this is what I love and was passionate about it – what also inspired me to create the brand was my love for customising clothing. I would buy branded clothes but would feel like there's something missing on them... so I would then customise them to my liking. People would often compliment my work and would ask me why do I not start my own clothing line, which was something I had been thinking about, so this kinda boosted my decision to venture into creating my own streetwear brand. I then thought of what a unique name in the streetwear world would be, and I never looked back.
So Babysitter are back with a new offering... something very unique – a collaboration with a football club. Could you please tell me a bit more about the upcoming drop?
TV: Growing up, football is something I loved – so after recently attending the local football tournaments, it gave me an interest in collaborating with a local grassroots football club. What's unique about the new drop is that this is something that has never been done before where I come from, which is the collaboration of a streetwear brand and a local football club. I chose to collaborate with the football club, 'Beke Le Beke FC' because of two reasons: firstly because I could relate to the hard work they put in, and secondly it's because the club originates from my neighbourhood and you know how we're usually used to the big brands doing such collabs and not upcoming brands – so this drop is very unique.
I saw some super insane silver caps on your Instagram lol and I'm selfishly asking when those are dropping? Do they also form part of the upcoming drop?
TV: About the caps you saw posted on the story – they are not part of the upcoming drop but they were just a mere "teaser" for a future drop, can't specify when that will be, but you'll be the first to know.
What are you most inspired by when it comes to your design process?
TV: What inspires my designing process is life experiences, the different environments I find myself in when traveling, but most importantly, what inspires my work is where I come from – the town I come from and the people I meet everywhere.
I've also looked in your archives and I really like how you use graphics to reinterpret concepts & create a natural contemporary story which we can relate to. How important do you feel it is, as a Gen Z designer, to integrate your culture & heritage into your brand?
TV: To me, every graphic is art and I use clothes as my canvas to express myself. The graphics I use are usually inspired by things that happen around me, for example the Guns & Chicks drop was inspired by the culture/lifestyle of clubing, how girls are often involved and the high use of guns in The Vaal. And to answer your question, I feel it is important to reinterpret the "culture" in order to create awareness, using graphics to convey a message of where I come from and the situations we find ourselves in almost everyday – both good and bad.
What's next for you and Babysitter looking forward to 2023?
TV: I don't want to share much about what Babysitter holds for the future because I don't want to ginx anything – but what I can tell you is 2023 is basically more work and more collaborations.
Creative director: @t_vena