TLC is Athleisure

The Local Collective's Tony Gum and Philia share their style

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Francois Visser

The twosome behind The Local Collective met on the internet about three years ago, when Philia left a comment on a video of Tony Gum dancing in her back yard. 

“Hey. I think you’re cool. Are you from Joburg?” 

Turns out that Tony was born and bred in Cape Town too, and after chatting for a minute they agreed to meet up IRL. 

“I thought I was being catfished, because Philia's pic looked a bit too good, so I insisted that we meet up at a public place and when we did it was like we’d known each other forever.”

The girls ended up dancing all night, which is exactly what they’re doing when we meet them at Philia’s parents' home in Paarl, with the sounds of bass jumping in the stocked dam in front of the house interrupted by the bass pumping out a wireless speaker. Before the first of their numerous outfit changes throughout the day, Tony is wearing a once-off onesie that The Sartists made for her and Philia is in some no-era, future-tech thing, both of which fall under the wider athleisure umbrella, the go-to style that the pair subscribe to. 

After their initial meeting the pair came up with the idea of doing something media based. “We both love film and both only watch American YouTubers, but we don’t really feel connected to them. So we decided to do something on our own,” says Philia. “Our first video was shot in Long Street where we bumped into Justice from I See a Different You, and he was like, ‘You guys seem cool, why don’t you come shoot our exhibition later.'” 

Tony describes TLC as a portal into underground Cape Town lifestyle – “what you wouldn’t necessarily see with a tour guide, unless we’re your tour guides. We can take you to the heart of what Cape Town really is and show you what doesn’t necessarily get showcased.” And that’s the local creatives who deserve to shine.

With Philia having graduated with a film degree and Tony busy pursuing hers, film was always going to be their medium of choice. More specifically, vlogging and publishing video via their YouTube channel, which is arguably one of the most effective forms of communication right now. The girls are particularly obsessed with pairing the right soundtrack to the right visual in order to make the viewers feel like they’re totally immersed and eschew glitz for authenticity.

“You have to have fun. That’s the trick. With me and Philia we’re friends before anything. Doing this with a friend makes it a lot more fun. We work together nicely. We're two humans coming together and bringing out the best in each other and then sharing that online." 

TLC’s approach is very laidback and relaxed. They do all the production, shooting, editing and everything else themselves. The girls say that they prefer not to have to rely on anybody else, and that their similar taste in music and aesthetics makes working together really easy.

“You don’t need fancy equipment or big budgets to make a connection,” says Tony. “We just use what we’ve got and feel strongly about having an emotional connectedness instead of something that’s in your face and flashy. We want the mood to be the main reason you watch The Local Collective. We want people to feel comfortable and happy.”

Same goes for how they choose to dress, where Tony explains athleisure as comfort-on-the-go. “The most important thing for me in fashion is being comfortable. You don’t want to have to think about what you’re wearing when you should be thinking about what you’re doing.” 

Philia recently shaved her head and says that for her comfort is all about confidence. “I like baggy things, androgynous fashion, I don’t want to be put into some category. You don’t need tight clothes or high heels to feel confident. If you’re comfortable then you’re confident. And that’s sexy. I like the fact that a lot of athleisure is gender neutral, I like the fluidity of the trend because I’m gender fluid as a person and don’t believe people should be boxed in. If I want to wake up and wear pants, or whatever, I should have the freedom to do that. And athleisure taps into that.”

Heavily inspired by Japanese fashion, sci-fi, neon, glitch and vapour wave, Philia has been dreaming of VR headsets since she was a little kid playing Duke Nukem on her PC. “MS dos, old school vibes. I think the athleisure trend will merge with wearable tech and things like VR headsets, heart monitors in clothing, trackers in clothing, recording devices in contact lenses… I’m ready, I’ve been ready for a while, and now I’m just waiting for that day to come.” 

Tony is simply happy with how the athleisure trend suits her lifestyle. Plus, she’s able to defy social settings and wear sneakers and a tracksuit to most of her engagements. “I’m a student so I need to be comfortable for school, then go to a meeting, or a photoshoot, and I don’t want to have to change every time. So that’s pretty great. And the other nice thing is how anyone can do it. Everyone has something in their closet that they can use to create an athleisure outfit.”

But it’s not just about comfort or aesthetics, and Tony is quick to point out that when you live in a city with four seasons in a day then you need to dress accordingly. “Athleisure can keep you warm when it’s cold and cool when you’re warm. The trend incorporates all these different fabrics to make clothing that you can wear all the time because it’s so practical.”

“And practicality is important,” adds Philia. “When you’re shooting and find yourself in weird positions, crouching down, leaning over things, or whatever, athleisure’s the perfect uniform."

When you’re on the go all the time you open yourself up to a host of wardrobe malfunctions that range from a spilled coffee to worse. A large part of personal style is keeping those items that work with you for longer. Working as a fashion consultant to P&G, British fashion designer Giles Deacon is one of the leading minds that Ariel partnered with in order to explore the fashion, fabrics and cognitive science space, which culminates in the P&G Future Fabrics event that South African trends analyst, Nicola Cooper, attended. 

The trend expert is as clued up about what we’ll be wearing in the future – solar powered jackets that charge your phone on the go, to name just one – as she is about contemporary clothes care. For Nicola, who wears a lot of couture, a massive takeaway from the Future Fabrics event was how while most of us prefer to dry-clean our precious items, that’s not always the best solution, as dry-cleaning can actually damage them. “So Ariel focused on something that you can use at home to take care of high fashion garments and things that are special to you,” Nicola explains.

That's the things like Tony’s hand-painted custom adidas onesie. Raised by a mother who loves clothing, Tony believes in the whole procedure that goes with taking care of your clothing. “No wire coat hangers ever, don’t mix colours, always put a towel over delicate prints and fabrics when you iron... Showing style with how you take care of your things is the true essence of being stylish.”

The think-tank at P&G agree that one of the most important things in terms of cleaning your athleisure items is to wash at cold temperatures. Ariel Auto Liquid has been designed to do just that, and also clean deeply, so that you don’t have stains or a build-up of dirt that makes your clothes look old. Most of the dirt in our laundry is actually invisible body oils. When you don’t clean clothes properly, this dirt attracts more dirt and you get the effect of the colours being dulled or whites looking grey. Which means that to keep your clothes looking new, you need to make sure that you clean properly and also avoid damage to the clothes.

The Local Collective end their day at graffiti artist, Skumbuzo 'Skubalisto' Vabaza's studio on the west coast of Cape Town. “Skumbuzo’s work is so emotive, the way he uses spray paint as brush strokes to create three dimensional work that’s emotionally powerful and striking," says Philia. "I instantly fell in love with what he was doing.”

In additions to the graffiti artist that they want to put on blast, there’s also a bunch of other Cape Town creatives hanging about the studio, which includes Mpilo Deporres from menswear brand Simon Deporres and another artist, Mr Fuzzy Slippers. The Local Collective feel that it's important to support and collaborate with the creative scene, not necessarily those with large social followings, but with people who are simply good at their craft. The TLC is not concerned with chasing numbers, or following trends, instead that want to work with people that they believe in and who believe in themselves, getting thier kicks from knowing that they're contributing to the scene in their own way. 

“Back in the day it was up to someone else believing in you first, and giving you a chance,” says Philia. “Now you just need to believe in yourself and people can see the talent from the work. It’s instantaneous. And technology has allowed us to do it ourselves.”