William Ndatila — Burundi-born and raised in French Switzerland — and Miro Bijelich — Pretoria-born of Lebanese and Croatian parents — have joined paths to combine their spirit, passions and inspirations to form Cult Collective — a Johannesburg-based clothing and accessory brand that ‘merges clashing references in a collage of prints taken from global street culture, art and music’. They talk to us about Africa and a global fashion consciousness, what it means to have style and give us their thoughts on Karl Lagerfeld. Yet before you delve into the deeper ends of the duo’s ideas and philosophies, we have some good news for you. Each Wednesday, during the weeks running up to Cult Collective’s Season Two Launch Party on 31 May, we’ll be giving away two Cult Collective t-shirts and two double tickets to the event. It will take place at Shine Studios, Braamfontein, and DJs performing include B-Type from Fuse CT and Delon from Therapy JHB. See the bottom of this post to find out how to enter.

Image: Justin McGee

Image: Justin McGee

When did you realise that you have conceptualised a solid idea that will actually work?

William Ndatila: When I met the right person with whom I had an exceptional creative connection i.e. Miro.

Miro Bijelich: I produced a t-shirt range in the early 2000s under the name of ‘Telepathic People’ which had a similar sub-culture/art/fashion aesthetic so I suppose it was in my early twenties that t-shirts became my calling. Cult Collective is the natural progression of my initial brand. Printed t-shirts will always be that one garment that sums up self-expression and individualism — that platform will always have a place in modern culture.

And how long did it take after that until you established your own brand?

Ndatila: After Miro and I discussed possible designs, and the creative spark was ignited, we got down to work.

Bijelich: To ‘establish’ a label you need experience and unfortunately that only comes with working for other brands and retailers. Knowledge and self-confidence are essential for the creation of a fashion brand without it you don’t stand a chance.

Was it important that you had international exposure?

Ndatila: The more profound one’s reference, the better.

Bijelich: I’ve been collecting international fashion and music magazines since I was in primary school, and I’ve built a library of reference that has inspired and driven my design aesthetic since then. Call it an obsession or a goal but I feel we too have a place in the global fashion village. We as a brand will always aspire to inspire a diverse audience both locally and internationally.

Image: Justin McGee

Image: Justin McGee

Have you always been into fashion?

Ndatila: I was the strange boy in boarding school who spent all his pocket money on publications such as The Face and French Vogue, so it was clear to me from an early age that this would be something I would pursue.

Bijelich: I admit it… I have always been aware of fashion, it’s in my blood, it’s part of my genetic make-up.

What got you interested in this kind of aesthetic expression?

Ndatila: The constant changes and challenges, and an extensive source of influences as well as inspirations.

Bijelich: In my teens, my world changed when I realised that you could combine art, music and fashion in one garment (t-shirt).

Why haven’t there been more local street wear projects in South Africa in the past?

Ndatila: Street wear projects are more daunting as you are up against large retailer groups dominating the market. Let us hope that this does not discourage anyone trying to start something of their own as we did.

Bijelich: Simply put, I believe investors and retailers are hesitant to support projects with such a local niche audience.

Can you tell us more about the philosophy you’re trying to spread and what sort of audiences you’re trying to reach? And how much of it is fun and how much is serious?

Ndatila: Personally I am inspired by everything and anything connected to the human creative process be it music, art, photography and media — questioning it and finding new ways of interpreting in my own way.
As for audience, we welcome anybody who resonates with it. I am serious about my work but I do not take myself too seriously.

Image: Justin McGee

Image: Justin McGee

What does it mean to you to ‘have style’?

Ndatila: To have style is to find your own voice not that of others based on mere trends or fashion dictates. To have style requires personal knowledge, culture and most importantly consistency in how you express yourself sartorially. Never mistake style for fashion ability.

Bijelich: Style and strength of character stand side by side. Style in terms of fashion is more about furnishing your personality. Personal style uses and adapts current trends instead of becoming a slave to them, it’s not defined by a time or age. ‘On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.’ – Thomas Jefferson

And what sort of implications does ‘having style’ have for the forming of culture or the greater good of the people and this world, if any?

Ndatila: ‘Having style’ is not going to end world hunger! However, any form of art, style, music — basically creativity — has a positive impact on peoples’ lives.

From the dawn of time we can see how humans in tribes have adorned themselves to attract or scare off one other. Fashion is just a contemporary way of doing it.

Bijelich: I don’t think ‘having style’ has profound effect on the forming of a culture — it’s the unconscious product of any culture whether developing or established.

Image: Justin McGee

Image: Justin McGee

I read on thecreativebook.com that your reason for success is your ‘ability to tap into local stories and translate them onto a global platform’. Can you tell me more about these stories? Where do you find them?

Ndatila: Inspiration is a funny thing, it has no specific origin. Sometimes we get our ideas from movies, books, music or the internet. The idea is the starting point, followed by the creative process, which is the part that is most enjoyable to me, with the final result being ‘the unknown’.

Bijelich: The stories we are referring to are more a personal account and belief that we as Africans are also able to tap into a global fashion consciousness. We are trying to break the general mind-set of the local fashion industry, by offering a brand that has international relevance rather than using specifically local influences and design aesthetic to capitalise on being uniquely African.

You may know the following Karl Lagerfeld quote: ‘Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.’ What do you think about it and what would you say to him if you had the chance to speak to him?

Ndatila: I love his humour and admire his vast accomplishments. Could you please organise a lunch?

Bijelich: Rather than question him, I would compliment him on the fact that he doesn’t look a day older than 65! On his comment I believe fashion is changing as is the customer.

High-end aspirational brands and classic couture houses are being inspired by what we in the industry are classifying as sportswear. They are producing lines that have a younger more progressive appeal, sweatpants and other clothing categories have been reinvented and re-marketed to be aspirational and dead cool.

In an ideal world, what would Cult Collective have achieved in a few years’ time?

Ndatila: Leaving an imprint on the culture of our generation.

Bijelich: Global recognition and a place in the sub-culture hall of fame.

Do you think style, spirit and inspiration will always remain true to South Africa?

Bijelich: I hope so…!

Ndatila: With technology the world is a much smaller place so we are not limited to our place of origin but will always draw from our past and immediate surroundings.

Interview by Christine Hogg
Images by Justin McGee

Image: Justin McGee

Image: Justin McGee


We’ll be announcing a winner every Wednesday during the weeks running up to the Launch Party on 31 May. Here’s what you need to do to stand a chance of winning a t-shirt and double tickets to the launch party:

1. Let us know what ‘cult fashion’ means to you. Leave a comment at the bottom of the page with your answer!

2. Tweet a link to this post and a mention of @onesmallseedSA as well as @cult_collective.

3. Like both one small seed Magazine & TV and Cult Collective on Facebook.

Good luck!

To see more of Cult Collective, go to their Tumblr. Their website cultcollectiveapparel.com will be launching after the event.

Here are some items from the new collection: