Words by: Gene Sibeko
Obakeng Rantlhane, a rising star in African fashion and media, has made a name for himself at just 25 years old. Known as a seasoned stylist and creative, he recently collaborated with Bonang Matheba and Swanky Jerry for the second season of the popular Netflix show, Young, Famous & African (YFA). Initially starting in marketing before transitioning into styling, Rantlhane demonstrates both business acumen and artistic talent. He is also the founder of Guide, a lifestyle platform that positions him at the forefront of fashion and luxury.
Rantlhane has developed a distinctive aesthetic known as “quiet-luxury,” characterised by clean lines, balanced proportions, refined tailoring, and a minimalist essence. “My style is really a lot but it’s nothing. It’s simple yet loud; low-key yet noticeable,” he explains.
Over the years, he has cultivated an impressive list of celebrity clients and headed up a number of high-profile projects. He was previously the head stylist for Living the Dream with Somizi and has worked with the likes of Pearl Thusi and Thandiswa Mazwai.
While working on YFA, Rantlhane says it was truly one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences he’s had. “I’ve been a fan of Bonang since I was in primary school,” he says. “So, I got in there thinking, ‘I’ve studied this lady, I know what she wants, I know her style,’ only for me to get there and see that she’s a human being. She knows what she likes and she’s a perfectionist. She’d tell me when a hem is too high, when something needs to be cut or a dress should be tighter.”
As a self-identified perfectionist, Rantlhane shares that working with another perfectionist was a major learning moment. “I’m usually a calm person but once I got in a room with Bonang, my mind would go into overdrive. I was able to be on my feet and think quickly. I would do something before she even says it; I would try to be in her head so that the day moves smoothly,” he says.
The lessons he absorbed from Bonang were transferred into his work with Swanky. “Working with Swanky was like working with my fashion godfather,” he says. “Being a stylist himself, Swanky knows fashion, he breathes fashion, he knows the current trends. Working with him was really refreshing because he allowed me to be creative. But at the same time, he still guided me. “He would say, ‘Okay I see what you’re doing but I’m too tall for that. Let’s rather do it this way’.”
He was also guided by the many events that took place on the show. “Each episode had a different theme, so I conceptualised outfits based on where they were going or what they were doing. If they were having lunch at the Silo, for example, I would think of outfits that would look great in that setting. Something that was very comfortable and functional. That’s really the process that I went through,” he explains.
In the YFA Season 2 promotional video, we see Bonang in a striking red outfit with prominent bow detail, giving us just a glimpse of the high fashion looks we can look forward to. “That was one of my favourite looks,” he says.
When it comes to his styling inspiration, Rantlhane says that being constantly surrounded by larger-than-life personalities is something he revels in. “When I have a client, I like to study their behaviour; what they like and don’t like, and create customised mood boards according to what I see them in. I live in my little fairytale head and enjoy creating characters for people,” he says.
One person he’d love to work with is actress Ama Qamata. Currently his biggest style crush, he believes they will have great synergy, something reminiscent of Law Roach and Zendaya. “I think I would do so many great things with her. From hair and makeup to outfits, the whole styling package. I know we’d create so many awesome things,” he envisions.
While Rantlhane has not yet reached his ‘Law Roach’ career peak, he is well on his way there. The creative industry is currently his oyster, and he is looking forward to continuing his many brand partnerships. “I have a great relationship with Courvoisier, and they truly understand luxury. I also have a few passion projects that I’m working on and I’m excited about where Guide is going. We’re about to disrupt industries – but in a very humble way. We’re just doing our own thing and taking up space. We’re putting out something that’s never been done before,” he says.
As one of the country’s most prominent luxury connoisseur’s, Rantlhane’s biggest style tip is to make sure things fit. “When things fit, they look luxurious; they look like they were made for you. There’s nothing more attractive than a well-tailored pair of pants or jacket.”
If it doesn’t fit, “Belt it up,” but the most important tip is to feel good and carry your outfit with confidence. “If you don’t feel good, you don’t look good,” he says. “My favourite thing about being a stylist is seeing my client joyful and teary because of the job that I’ve done. Styling for me is not only about pretty clothes but about guiding people through their emotions, allowing them to trust me with their bodies, and creating a personal experience. Once we get that positive end result, that’s when I’m the happiest.”
Follow Obakeng Rantlane on Instagram at @obakengrantlhane for more on his career journey and upcoming styling projects.