David Tlale, the internationally acclaimed South African designer and one of the country’s most prominent queer men, has categorically denied shocking allegations that he drugged and sexually abused a former employee.
Earlier this week, Sindile Zack Dudumashe posted the shocking claims on his Instagram account, also alleging that he was exploited and demeaned by Tlale, souring his dreams of working in the fashion industry.
“This man with ulterior motives got close to me at 21 years of age while working for [African Fashion International] (which is how we met), forged a ‘friendship’. I was charmed and inspired by him. A role model to me at the time and to cut a long story short, he drugged and sexually abused me, he then exploited me of my skills during the pandemic,” Dudumashe wrote.
“He would ask I write him, pressers, sponsorship proposals and other strategies/copy, promise to pay me, often in clothing but wouldn’t actually and when I’d remind him, he’d get defensive and gaslight me.”
Dudumashe added: “I left his brand after 3 months working for him and swore never to work in the fashion media industry again. A passion and vocation of mine.”
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David Tlale responded to the claims in a statement posted on Instagram, denying Dudumashe’s allegations which he said were intended to damage his personal and business reputation.
“Some very serious and quite damning allegations levelled against me and my professional brand have surfaced over the weekend. These allegations are categorically false and only seek to cause me serious harm and also seek to undermine the lived experiences of those who are real victims of sexual assault of any nature,” said Tlale.
“While I consult with my internal team of experts on this matter, this shall be the first and only comment on this issue until I am advised otherwise,” he concluded.
Dudumashe told IOL that he was afraid to take legal action against Tlale, stating: “I want to go that route but I’m fearful and still just listening to God.”
He later said he would no longer speak to the media, writing on Instagram: “We’re past giving you bylines. I’m coming heavy for that Tlale boy! If you want to help me, it’s the legal route.”
The 47-year-old Tlale started his life in the township of Vosloorus, south-east of Johannesburg. He has gone on to become one of the country’s leading fashion designers, showing his work at events such as New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week, and dressing top politicians and celebrities.
Last year, David Tlale was recognised for his work and achievements by the Feather Awards which honoured him with the prestigious Simon Nkoli Award.