Malibongwe Tyilo

Fashion blogger Skattie is branching out to become an ubiquitous brand


Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Illustration: Bennett Atkinson

Malibongwe Tyilo is the type of guy who’d go to the opening of an envelope. His life is one long party filled with lunches, brunches, launches, openings, awards, galas and the type of thing where air-kissing and looking over the shoulder of the person you’re speaking to in order to see if there’s someone in the room that’s more famous, is absolutely normal. At least Mali has an excuse; he’s made this social swanning his job. Kind of. Because along with his blog he’s also Visi’s editor-at-large and writes regular columns for Woolworths W magazine and the City Press. More fly-on-the-wall than vacant participant, his calling bullshit and scathing commentary on the J&B Met, via The Skattie What The Fu**ing Fu** Awards, has made his blog a destination for both style- savvy South Africans and those who like their internet surfing with a few LOLs. More interested in documenting style than preaching it, Mali’s fashion blog allows us to peek behind the velvet curtain and participate in a world we’d otherwise not be privy to. But don’t take it from us – here’s Mali.

How does a guy from King William’s Town become a style authority?

Lol. I've always held this view that a lot of people that do interesting things in the "big city" often come from villages, small townships and small towns from across the country – they are not necessarily born in the city. So the idea of small town guy developing a voice/platform in the city is actually more rule than exception.

What’s it like having a social calendar as full as yours and then sustaining oneself on champagne, canapés and goodie-bags?

I don't go out as much these days, because things got really hectic. Don't get me wrong, I love the social life – it energises me. I grew up on the late Gwen Gill's column. I remember back in 1998 when I graduated from fashion school, I was trying to figure out what I would do with my life if money weren’t an issue, and the only title that made sense was "international party girl". You know dem galz. Anyway, that didn't work out, and I discovered a love for wordplay, and now that I am an actual journalist I want to go study Creative Writing, and spend my life writing. But I digress – back to the calendar. So ja, it's not as full, I've gotten much more selective. I'm an overweight 36-year old man, the hangovers are unbearable and the goodie bags are mostly shit. I've had to give up drinking so many times, for three months at a time, just so I could keep attending events and still avoid developing a Phuza-Face. In fact right now I am once again sober, the plan being to keep it that way for all of 2015, it's the only way i can survive. It’s also part of my job at Visi to attend events, so I really to have to be quite strategic about how I do that and remain healthy. 

Your blog has been going for five years now and you’ve promised to replace that hideous blogspot platform for something more aligned with the rest of your brand. Would you tell us a bit more about this, please?

I seem to be the only person who still likes BlogSpot. Anyway, in May the blog turned five years old, and for the longest time it's been my baby.  When I started it I was a fashion buyer, and I was looking for a creative outlet that wouldn't be governed by market forces, a space where I could play, not a business. My life has changed since then, and so has my career, I've spent the last three years working as a lifestyle and culture journalist. Being in that space has made me recognise that there is a huge gap in SA when it comes to fashion and arts coverage. There are sites like between10and5, which I have an enormous amount of respect for, but I think there is still space for many more players and much more coverage. I really do think we owe it to our creative industries. Together with friend, journalist and trend analyst Sandiso Ngubane we have completely relaunched skattie what are you wearing as SKATTIE. It's not just a cosmetic change either, we've completely changed the content structure. While you'll still find all the content from the last five years, and new pictures from new events, we're now going a little deeper, and talking to industry players and stakeholders, and increasing our support for young designers by prioritising coverage of their work. We've also partnered up with Art South Africa magazine to make this possible, which is quite exciting for us because Skattie the blog has always had a close relationship with the arts, and this partnership feels so natural, organic.

How will having Sandiso involved help with growing the Skattie empire?

Sandiso and I met over four years ago, and immediately got into a debate about content, and for the last four years a lot of our conversation has been about content. That we would work together is almost a no-brainer. As Skattie Co-Editors, we are able to explore the kind of content we always talk about. About three years ago we worked together on the graduation development project, towards the development of the first Skattie online magazine, and over the last couple of years we have created the Skattie Celebrates project. Through out that time we have also been working towards the development of the thatskattie.com website. So whilst skattie what are you wearing was my baby, when it comes to the larger idea of SKATTIE, which is the current website, our online publications, and our events, Sandiso and I have been working together for years, these are things we co-own, co-produce, and co-edit. 

Tell us about your graduate development programme.

This is a programme that Athi and I worked on in 2013, with a group of artists and performers. I was initiated by Joule City, a programme started by performance artists Julia Rainham. The initial one ran for six months. Other people trained the artists in business administration. Athi worked with them towards the realisation of a performance artwork, and I worked with them towards putting together the very first Skattie online magazine, which was a documentation of the work they were doing and their views on arts and design.

And your Skattie Celebrates project?

This is something Sandiso Ngubane and I started July last year. Basically we identify a young emerging artist who has not as yet been snatched up by a gallery. Then we create an online magazine around their work together with Art South Africa, featuring images, interviews and a bio. The magazine is available to download on the blog. We then approach a gallery to host us for a night where we print out the mag and exhibit it, along with original works by the artists. We get deejays, and we partner with alcohol brands to create an amazing party/exhibition within the gallery space. Besides promoting artists, we are also in the business of growing the audience for the arts. We want people to feel much more comfortable in galleries than they currently do. We want to grow Skattie Celebrates into a quarterly event. We've just hosted our third and most successful one with the artists Thania Petersen.

Brendon and Suzette Bell-Roberts have come on board, would you explain their involvement?

Our partnership with the Bell-Roberts' ArtAfrica gives us access to a fully functioning publishing and event organising infrastructure. The stunning new website was designed by ArtAfrica, and our Skattie Celebrates magazine is also designed by ArtAfrica. So this is a partnership that puts us in a position to be able to deliver the kind of content we want to deliver in the format we want to deliver it in.

You’re a London International School of Fashion graduate and former fashion buyer. Who were you buying for and how has life prepared you for your role as style arbiter?

I've worked for Truworths and Edgars as a buyer. To begin with I worked as a buyer's assistant for Woolies. When I left fashion school, like most fashion school kids, I thought I was the most amazing thing to happen to SA design. Never mind that my ideas were so ridiculously impractical (and honestly quite ugly), that I never actually managed to sell a thing. Getting into buying a few years later brought me down to earth, and taught me a lot about how people actually dress. Also, because as a buyer you're not a designer, but you work closely with designers, you have to be able to edit a look, an outfit, so it's just right. You also have to be constantly aware of what people are wearing so you don't miss out on trends that are in demand.

Your silverware includes the Marie Claire Best Fashion Blogger award, Cosmopolitan’s top-five fashion blogs and the Mail & Guardian listed you as one of their 200 Young South Africans. Anything that we're forgetting? Also, when stuff like this happens who do you hope is the first to hear about it?

My partner Athi, because we're very supportive of each other. I'm always so happy when something happens to him, and he is also always so proud when something awesome happens to me. Also, the only bit I'd put under the silverware category is the Marie Claire award – the Cosmo one was more of an editorial type list. 

Your partner is equally celebrated. Are you guys the new Joost and Amor?

I doubt very much that our faces on the cover of You or Huisgenoot would help to move units. So unfortunately not. Don't get me wrong, I could do with that Joost and Amor money, but alas, it is not so. Our sex tape will not make the cover of Heat

You’re the Editor-at-Large at Visi, and Contributing Editor at Elle. What is that, and would you describe for us your average day working there, please?

I am so glad you asked that, because I think it is the most misunderstood title. People tend to think it is the same as editor or even higher. I like to refer them to the Wikipedia definition, which captures what I do perfectly. It goes: An editor-at-large is a journalist who contributes content to a publication. Unlike an editor who works on a publication from day-to-day and is hands on, an editor-at-large will contribute content on a regular or semi-regular basis and will have less of a say on a specific field such as layout, pictures or the publication’s direction. However, unlike a writer, they are allowed their own preferences in the content they have to generate and don’t always have to pitch their ideas to the main editor.  "At large" means the editor has no specific assignments, but rather works on whatever interests them. So every week we have our editorial meeting where we update each other on what we are working on, and we pitch ideas on what is new and exciting. A huge part of my job is keeping my finger on the pulse so I can bring ideas on what we will cover for the next issue or the website. Once that’s done we split the work and I write the pieces that I feel strongly about. I am very lucky because I work with an incredible team, and I’m not just saying that for bullshit PR’s sake. It really is an incredibly creative and kind environment driven by the ideas of the team that work on Visi. I spend the other half of my time at Elle, working on my column pieces for the magazine and for online, researching and exchanging fashion content ideas. It's all rather exciting.

Another month, another Fashion Week. please say we’re going to get another what the fu**ing f**k are you wearing awards.

Sadly not. We tried this year at the J&B Met. We had the pics, but for some reason, we couldn't be funny with the captions. Performance anxiety, I think. I can't say we'll never do it again – if the moment is right, and the style is awful, and our humour is on point, then...