So the official countdown to the most anticipated experience in local Hip Hop is officially at its peak with about 6 days to go. The 2019 Castle Lite Unlocks two-day experience, scheduled for the 17 – 18 of June 2019 promises to be a cultural hotspot of everything Hip-Hop. Now in its seventh year, Castle Lite Unlocks has evolved from previous years into a two-day, extra-cold and fully immersive Hip Hop cultural experience which comes to life through music, fashion, conversation, and art. With so many sub-cultural activities to set to shake the game up, the fashion side of it, of course, finds GALXBOY founder, Thatiso Dube, who collaborated with Castle Lite to produce limited edition merchandise as part of the experience. And when HYPE got the chance to talk with Thatiso and find out how the whole collab happened, we took the opportunity with both hands… Read the interview below.
When we found out that you were collaborating with Castle Lite to create some merch that was quite unexpected. How did this collaboration come together?
When they hit me up, they told me what they wanted to do but they weren’t really sure what direction they wanted to go through. They just told me “we need you to create a streetwear brand for Castle Lite, something that’ll live on its own and not necessarily seem like it’s a Castle Lite thing.” So, I started at the end of February or beginning… I just started designing and sending them designs, you know going back and forth until we got where we both wanted to be. I think designing took about two months. Thing is you know when you’re dealing with corporates, there are a lot of rules…
Word. What convinced you to decide on taking the task especially looking at the way the GALXBOY brand moves. What pushed you to accept this collab?
I think I wanted to do it because it was something new and challenging. It was a new thing for me. I wanted to impress Castle Lite and maybe also try to change the mindset and make them try something new. That’s why I also didn’t mind taking two months going back and forth because I knew the end goal.
Did you face some design challenges when you were designing everything? Were there any brand clashes between GALXBOY and Castle Lite?
Not really because everything sorts of had a balance – a bit of GALXBOY and the more cleanness of Castle Lite. At the end of the day, it was something new and anything new is always welcome.
And what would you say makes the whole collection so special?
I think the actual items of the clothing and the way we played with the logo, the Castle Lite logo. It’s not something they usually do – that’s the added effect from the GALXBOY side.
You mentioned that you took about 2 months to create this collab. How many designs did you go through to reach the end results?
I think I designed more than 300 pieces, then I think we chose 12…
Damn. So, when you found out about how Castle Lite was planning on focusing on other elements of hip hop besides the music what was your opinion on the news?
It was a great move because there’s a whole lot of activities around the music. So, involving all the kids and giving them a platform to do what they do, its better for everyone. They get more content; they get to discover new people and new talent. Everybody gets a place to share their talents. So, I think it’s a great initiative by Castle Lite.
What do you think made this GALXBOY x Castle Lite collab work so well together?
I think the fact that Castle Lite just let me do what I wanted, they were not directing anything, they just told me “yo this is what we want, so just do your thing and let’s cook up something together” no restrictions, no nothing. I think that’s why it worked you know; they didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do. They didn’t instruct me to do anything. Like I was just doing what I know, and they just came in and filled up the gaps.
Let’s talk about the GALXBOY brand, how has the brand been growing and moving because the brand presence isn’t as big as it was before? Clearly, you’ve been strategizing personally…
Basically, we closed the store then we pushed all sales on social media and online, but in the background, we were basically restructuring the whole brand basically, business-wise and everything else. Right now, I’d say we’re almost done. We’ll probably be fully back up in the next two months. We’re opening up a store in a very popular mall. Everything will be back on top. personally, what I’ve been doing is helping other brands, other local brands, cause they also looking for places to manufacture and all these plugs. So, I’ve just been basically plugging all these local brands, basically doing a little charity work you know.
Yeah, we’ve seen that you once collab with a food chain?
Yeah. We’re doing a lot of corporate stuff on the side but also changing their looks, making them more relevant and stuff like that. We collaborated with a restaurant that sells chicken, so we did their uniform for their staff members.
What are your thoughts on the local streetwear/fashion scene? Do you think it’s progressing?
I mean right now; I think we’re doing okay but I don’t think we’re making that money. I don’t think anyone is making real money right now. I think most of them are scared. They fear too much cause I’ve spoken to a lot of them. They just scared to go big. When I started, I didn’t care, bro, I had nothing to lose. I just went in, every cent I had I put in, whether I lost it or not I didn’t care, I just when and that’s why everything blew up how it blew up. We used to do crazy numbers at the store you know, we used to do maybe around 2 million, 5 million items sold. For you to do that you need to in all the coins. You mustn’t be scared. If you want to drop 1000 items, drop 1000 items. Don’t drop 10 and see what the people say.
What has stood out about GALXBOY is the quality of the products. How do you keep your quality standards so high?
The information is out there. All the information is out there. All you have to do is just search. You have to research, find the best quality out there. Some people are scared of going overseas, I mean its nothing. You just get on a flight, you go search for factories, you come back, and you do your thing. Locally, quality wise, it’s tough getting that real quality cause at the end of the day, when I make clothes I want to compete with your Nikes and Adidas or whatever you know what I mean. In terms of quality, if I have a cap and Nike has a cap, it must be the same quality you know what I mean. Obviously, mine will be cheaper cause you know how it works this side. But anyway, the value must be the same. When they wear my cap it’s quality, they are proud of it and they can show it out there. That’s the problem this side, people are just buying the clothes. They don’t add value, you can’t even develop a retail market this side.
So, you fly out to make your clothes? Which countries did you visit to make the Castle Lite merch?
A few places man, Pakistan, China, and Bangladesh. Some items were done in one country and other items in another country. It made sense to them cause they’re also a quality brand. Castle Lite always make sure their things are always on top. Whether it’s a picture or a font or whatever, everything is always on point, so I had to match that.
Do you still research today? Because it seems like you’ve figured out everything.
I still research every day. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Alibaba, I’m on there every day talking to manufacturers, making samples you know. They ship samples to me; I check their samples out. If it’s good, its good, if it’s not, It’s not. So, you have to put in time into that until you find the right person to do the job. That’s why I have contacts everywhere cause I’m always sampling stuff “oh let me try this guy, let me try this guy”, then eventually you’ll find the perfect people to do the job.
How have you grown personally as an individual after all these years?
I mean now I’m more on the business side things. I’m always thinking about the business first and the clothing after. Back then it was vice-versa. Back then I was just making clothes and selling them. I didn’t care if I had to have an accountant or this or that, or a strategy. I just was making clothes.
So now you’re more involved in the brand than just the designing of clothes?
Yeah, there’s a lot of other things involved man. You just have to have a plan of what you’re going do through the year, your strategy, marketing, financials – all those things. Basically, what I was saying is that the structure is almost done and it’s going to work as a real business.
Work as a real business in what way?
We’re doing it exactly like how corporates are doing it. We’re going to have an agency, handling our marketing – as all the right people because back then we used to do everything on our own. So right now, we have the budget to make it a real corporate structure you know. Everything is going to happen all professionally. We might have a few billboards around, we might have a young TV ad, a young magazine advert – basically how international brands do their things. We going to do that, we going to stop acting like we local -local – asking for retweets you know. We just going to do a full professional clothing brand.
Does the GALXBOY brand have the ambition to cater to the high fashion market too?
I mean if the opportunity comes man… Because you know it’s tough to get into. There are a lot of bullies out there so if you start eating from other people’s pies, they’re going to start kicking you out, you know. We just want to run with our own pace and see where we get but yeah, we definitely want to be the biggest this side, you know what I mean. I mean I read that the youth spend about R135 billion on clothing, a year, in SA. If you think about it almost 90% of that money leaves the country. So, if you could hold like 10% of all the brands this side, it’ll be great. I was also thinking about what if the government forced international brands to collabo with local brands, at least one local brand.
Hmmm… that’s quite an interesting thought…
If something like that was forced, like to say “okay Nike, in the year, you must at least collabo with two brands in SA for you to comply with and be able to do business this side” because, at the end of the day, these guys are killing us. So, if they are forced to collabo with us, we’ll be able to make some good money and also express ourselves on that platform you know what I mean. So that’s a big idea.
Have you ever had creative challenges with regards to what else could you offer the people?
No, not me. I’ve never had those challenges. I think for me, with clothing and fashion people never really know what they want so even with this jacket, I was a bit skeptical about doing it, but I was like “no let me put it out”. It’s different but people liked it because it’s what I gave them, I never asked them if they like it or not. I just give it to them, and they’ll take it. Some won’t take it, but some will, so that’s the thing about fashion, you can convince a lot of people to dig what you’re doing, as long as you’re confident about it.
So, from what I’m getting here, GALXBOY is pretty much coming to take back the top spot…
That’s the correct way to put it, man. We’re basically coming back for everything. You’re going to see us in music videos and TV ads.
You can cop yourself some Castle Lite x GALXBOY merch right here.