Bravery can take you far. But a different kind of conviction is required to get to the very top. It takes courage that obstacles can’t stop. A sense of self belief so strong that criticism can’t stick. A way of living built on a foundation of confidence that only the greatest possess.
“The fashion industry in South Africa is small. Breaking into its circles is hard. The gatekeepers of the industry don’t let anybody in easy. You have to break boundaries and become a force to be reckoned with.”
Lizwe Thabethe is the cofounder and Creative Director of Project Inflamed. Founded in 2014, the Johannesburg-based men’s fashion label has covered plenty of ground in a short space of time. Lizwe’s drive, diligence and charisma have been key to its success.
You can’t be taught to carry yourself with the confidence Lizwe does. His movement is fluid and every element of his appearance is carefully considered. He knows the value of presentation and how to look his best. Always. An inherent sense of style has evolved into a distinct personal brand, which manifests itself in Project Inflamed.
“You have to be versatile with your look. Being on top of changing trends is important in terms of staying relevant, but you’ve got to remain classical and timeless to be truly stylish.”
That’s quite straightforward for someone that oozes confidence. But not everyone is blessed with Lizwe’s self belief. He’s determined to help every man achieve their fashion goals, no matter how lost they feel in the quest to dress better. He has advice on a few wardrobe staples to help every man get started.
“I’d say good quality shoes first. Very important. A pair of tailored pants with a matching blazer, also tailored. A crisp white shirt and good quality watch. Put those together and you’re good for any occasion. Then add a pair of white sneakers and lastly a few wrist accessories to dress things down.”
As a true individual, Lizwe recognises the fact that everyone is unique. Different opinions mean that everyone needs their own personal brand. “There are no unbreakable rules in fashion,” he reveals. “It just depends on people’s taste when it comes to dressing up. Whatever they feel comfortable in, whatever works for them.”
Project Inflamed has achieved a great deal of success since its inception. In just four short years, the brand has accrued a cult following on Instagram, become a tangible presence in Joburg and collaborated with some big names in the fashion game.
“I’m proud of every single collaboration we’ve done with all the brands we’ve worked with. The #JoziInMyGenes collab with Relay was great but one that stands out for me is the 2017 Tread & Miller Christmas campaign. It really marked Project Inflamed as a serious player in this industry.”
The boutique men’s fashion label owes its success to the contributions of its founders. But Lizwe is quick to point to the external factors that shaped him into the formidable fashion entrepreneur he is today. Being based in the vibrant precinct of Maboneng provides daily doses of inspiration.
“I’m exposed to the creativity and opportunity that’s always surrounding Maboneng. I feed off of it and vice versa. Living in a city like Joburg is everything. You meet other creatives doing the most and you can’t help but be inspired by it all.”
When asked what advice he has for young creatives with big business dreams that don’t know where to begin, Lizwe’s response is emphatic.
“Just start. Stop procrastinating and learn about your craft and your industry as much as you can. Research is important. Do what they are passionate about and put in hard work. Love what you do and what you do will take care of you.”
Keep an eye on one of the freshest fashion brands in the land. Lizwe and the Project Inflamed team are fierce and fearless. The next blockbuster moment is coming this November. They’re collaborating with Markham to host a denim party like no other.
Connect with Project Inflamed:
Facebook: Project Inflamed Fashion
Watch Lizwe do his thing in our latest video below, and meet more small business owners here