27 Jun 2024 ///

Chapter 28 | Ten Essential Winter Wardrobe Pieces from Local Brands

It’s a humbling thing to realise that you will never know all that there is to know in one given space – I’ve just had this experience in the context of local fashion. South Africa’s landscape is mighty but small, but I’ve sometimes found myself wondering if we were heading for a kind of oversaturation; if you know Interlude, or my writing on SA fashion, this is basically a cardinal sin for me. Thankfully, I realised that I just wasn’t looking hard enough to find new (and established) brands – just in time for our ‘Winter Essentials Guide’, where we give you a sampling of the local smörgåsbord available this season. 

As always, our ‘Essentials Guide”   is a mix of masculine and feminine, and while the emphasis here is on womenswear, there are some menswear pieces to marvel at with most of the brands that are featured, offering pragmatically unisex and gender-fluid garments. Thankfully, fashion is continuing to abandon the rules on gendered approaches – while ensuring that body shapes and curvature are well-designed for.

I was once again struck, while writing Chapter 28, with the realisation at just how brand-identity centric South African designers and founders are; I think in many ways, this sets us apart from the rest of the world. Drawn from a vast creative landscape of graphic designers, web-builders and the likes of; really good art direction appears innate to South African creativity in the last two decades. The concerto of brands featured are each storytellers in their own right: solving a problem, finding a narrative, and building worlds – with clothing as their primary tool. When we invest in local brands, we’re investing in the economy of those we admire, and all the ways in which their brand kindles the flame of our garment manufacturing industry. I know I don’t need to convince you, but I thought I’d just remind you – I think we have a sartorial responsibility to shop locally whenever possible. 

Here we go! 

Thabo Kopele’s Spine Pleat Windbreaker

Thabo Kopele’s eponymous brand has been on the scene for some time – and I want to call for its accolades to increase tenfold. The label holds one of the strongest symphonic understandings of the relationship between fashion, architecture and people that I have seen for some time and Thabo’s vision is highly articulated, rooted in simplicity and elegance. For the brand’s latest collection, ‘Tse Skoon’, there are many pieces I wanted to add to this list – like the Brazilian Sand Ribano Rib knit with a poly-cotton hem, or their long haired melton and cashmere blend scarf. Though,  the spine-pleat coat was the final choice; especially since the spine pleat is a technique innate to Thabo Kopele.  As Thabo shares with me, “from when I showcased my debut collection at SA Fashion Week over 4 years ago, pleats have been a constant detail that helps explain my philosophy around fashion being a mouthpiece that highlights the intricacies of our lives. The spine is no different in this regard. Growing up I had always been told by my father that it’s imperative for a person to have a backbone and know what it is they stand for regardless of external influences.” 

For Thabo, the essence of design is storytelling – whether it’s the curated scenes of his campaigns, or his construction details, the designer explains that “the spine pleat was my way of telling this story in a more tangible way, a way that offers a window into the wearer’s sense of style and essentially, their way of being. From a far it always seems to be a very difficult detail to practically pull off but the closer you get to it, the simpler it becomes to understand it’s formation, this is something I have personally experienced with a lot of human interactions I’ve had so far, some people seem intimidating until you get closer and understand them. The spine pleat detail was not only featured in the windbreaker, but also in our mandarin industrial gilet and our tan woven suits. The detail is a continuous reminder of where we are as a brand and where we are headed in the most positive ways.” Thabo’s view is timelessness, and deriving the luxury from stillness. Perfect.

Thabo Kopele’s Spine Pleat Windbreaker

Stiebeuel’s Kid Mohair and Mulberry Silk Knitwear 

Founded in 2015, Stiebeuel is your favourite’s favourite brand. Masters of the clean-cut, contemporary aesthetic – the label is reminiscent of Teddy Santis’ Aimé Leon Dior, but, through a design-lens for surfers and tastemakers reflective of coastal living in Cape Town. Stiebeuel’s focus on heritage classics like the perfect ‘sweatshirt’ or fitted baseball cap as well as  the brand’s use of colour, always standout. Suffice to say, when they announced the launch of their segue into knitwear – the approach is true to Stiebeuel’s codes of intentionality. Sneak peeks on Instagram have shown that the signature Stiebueul knitwear is a blend of kid mohair and mulberry silk; a luxurious weave, with both fibres being equal in their strength and functionality, and that beautiful lustre that in Stiebeuel’s shades of electric blue and sunshine yellow are set to be the *ones* for this season. With mohair’s insulation properties and mulberry silk’s breathability, these knits will be perfect for transeasonal use; yes please.

Stiebeuel’s Kid-Mohair x Mulbery Silk Jersey

Studio Bananaaa’s Knitted Hats

Simphiwe Khumalo’s Studio Bananaaa is genius. Again, South African creatives know about storytelling – and Studio Bananaaa is as much a site for storytelling, imbued with meaning, as it is for a beautiful crafted product. As a knitwear brand specialising in hats, all of Studio Bananaaa’s hats are handmade by his mom in Soweto, and each are completely one of a kind. In asking Simphiwe about the intention of the brand, and fusing handcrafting with a contemporary vision, he notes that “my mom’s hats and knitwear are a creative expression and celebration of her joyful spirit. Each hat is designed to be fun, colourful, and never serious – a true reflection of her personality. Building a contemporary brand based on handcrafting in 2024 has been an interesting journey. We have learned a lot about how fast-fashion has made things hard for brands like ours that create by hand. We appreciate the people who see the value in handcraft.” Brands like Studio Bananaaa are poignant reminders of why fashion exists and what it can seek to do; it’s a vehicle and vessel to say exactly what one wants to say, and explore ideas. A cosy knitted head from Studio Bananaaa is essential for you, this winter.

Studio Bananaaa’s Knitted Hats

Alaya Studio’s Knitted Jemima Set

Alaya Studio is the recently launched sister brand to the girly’s number one ANTISOCIAL, by Storm Grieve. Alaya is the older sister or rich aunt to ANTISOCIAL’S hot girl summer vibe – and if there’s one thing I love more than anything, it’s a well-made set that is as sexy as it is interesting. Enter, Alaya’s Jemima Knit set in charcoal. With a folder over, off-the-shoulder detail on the top and another fold over detail on the skirt: she is flattering and snug, and just an absolute key set for casual and formal needs. Both ANTISOCIAL and Alaya are what happens when women design for women – magic happens and we are *seen*. As Storm says, “our launch of Alaya Studio was driven by a deep commitment to create a brand that values longevity and timeless fashion. We wanted to create high quality pieces that will never go out of style, that are sophisticated with an edge, as we feel there needs to be a more sustainable and thoughtful approach towards fashion locally. We want to encourage our customers to buy items that they will love for years to come.”

Alaya Studio’s Knitted Jemima Set

Neimil’s Leeto Tailored Trousers

Neimil is the brain-child design duo Keneilwe Mothoa and Lubabalo Mxalisa, each formidable creatives and aesthetes. Neimiil is a one stop vehicle for the marriage between heritage and modernity, in an afro-modernist lens, across fashion, textiles, homeware and objects. Basically, everything Neimil does is with a clear vision for beautiful design and masterful product development. So, when I bought their Leeto Trousers and Pleat Skirt Set in cream – I felt like I had arrived. Neimil is so competitively priced for how incredibly well it is made, and  the Leeto Trousers are available in black, brown and cream – with a fabrication in a strong cotton, and cut to perfection. You’re gonna need a pair in every colour.

Neimil’s Leeto Tailored Trousers

Good Good Good’s Cropped Collared Jacket

We need to talk about Good Good Good’s return to both cyberspace and showcasing a new collection. Daniel Sher, a South African design OG, is always cooking up something – so when the brand ‘went quiet’ for two years, and their website crashed in 2023, Daniel saw the opportunity to incubate his vision through his celebrated concept store, Duck Duck Goose. A cult favourite for the choms, Good Good Good have thankfully returned this winter with a brand new website and a collection titled ‘Roots’. In true GGG fashion, the collection is an ode to the people and sentiments that make up this iconic homegrown brand, and charts the story of the brand’s experience in the last two years. Where else are we going to get this kind of honesty? Read more about the brand’s recent journey, penned by Josquin Du Tot, here. For the purposes of this guide, the Roots Collection brings us the ‘Cropped Collared Jacket’ in moss, rooibos, black and olive – a feat of construction and Daniel’s incisive construction-mind. As with all Good Good Good pieces, they’re ethically and lovingly made in Daniel and Paige Sher’s 28 year old garment factory: a jewel in the crown of our local fashion industry. Yes to Good Good Good’s return, and viva to the future.

Good Good Good’s “Roots” Collection

Gadat’s Chocolate Brown Wrap Skirt and Shirt Set

Okay, so I’m obsessed with sets! Arrest me? But I will not rest – because I can’t shake the utter chicness of a set, and the way it can give way to shoes and accessories through one’s own personal style lens. Nompumelelo Nhlapho’s Gadat House is a Joburg-based brand that understands the soft power of the set, and Nompumelelo is very focused on the art of drapery. As she says, “Gadat’s design vision is to embody a strong ethos of intentionality and community. I have always incorporated a ready to wear model with an emphasis on garments that are unique by design. Our designs embody minimalism, emphasising draping or tailoring with a strong focus on silhouette.” For me, it’s Gadat’s Chocolate Brown and Wrap Skirt and Solomon Shirt set, with each piece being so strong on its own and individually essential. On the future for the label, Nompumelelo says, “looking ahead, we aim to invest into technological advances to create our own unique fabrics and prints. A significant challenge I’ve encountered is bridging the gap between design ideas and the limited resources available to bring them to life. As a storytelling brand, my goal is to articulate a clear voice and aesthetic that reflects the ‘South African’ artist of my generation, one that draws inspiration from local stories, yet having access to global platforms and influence due to the use of social media.”

Gadat’s Chocolate Brown Solomon shirt and wrap skirt set

Papaya Tree Apparel’s Basic Long Sleeve Tees  

I love that this guide is full of women doing the damn thing. Marna Schoeman’s Papaya Tree Apparel is a serious go-to for essentials of all kinds. I’m always look for the perfect basic tee, especially long sleeve – so when I found Papaya’s Basic Long Sleeve Tee and it featured a boatneck (a neckline to defy all necklines, in my opinion) *and* we choose our preferred length? From cropped, to midline and long-line – Papaya’s long sleeve tee is made for the torso proportions we’re aiming for, and for this reason alone – I was sold. I’m writing Interlude as I wear the delicious, form fitting and double-lined Basic Long Sleeve Tee and as soon as I’ve paid my bills this month, I’m stocking up on other colours – and for summer, the short sleeved and sleeveless ones. Thank you, Marna.

The Long Sleeve Tee Buff, by Papaya Tree Apparel

Found Golf’s Bell Sleeve Shirt 

I’m obsessed with a couple duo – and further to this, a duo that sees a gap and dives straight in. Found was launched last year, and it’s the answer we need to the untapped elevation of golf wear that transitions beautifully into streetwear. Look, preppy fashion is perennial, and from the minds of Lance Peach and Ellen Keillar, golfwear becomes a metaphor for interesting design iterations of all our favourites. As Lance explains, “we look to re-interpret classic styles through a modern lens that rejects the necessity for gender specific garments and stuffy old traditions.” So, when CEC’s EIC Candice rocked up to lunch in the most insane bell-sleeved, striped shirt and told me it was Found  – I knew they were onto something. Now, Found have just launched the White Bell Sleeve Shirt. Both feature gorgeous detailing, incredible silhouette and as you well know, having an array of interesting shirts will never not be essential. Street smart yet golf cart! Get it, immediately!

Found Golf’s Bell Slevee Shirt in White and Blue, photography by Kent Andreasen and Jena Hall

Duck Apparel’s Puffer Totes 

I’m self-admittedly not a handbag girly – the ones I want are out of my price-range, and I just don’t resonate with them as an accessory in a way that’s critical. I have used the same handbag for two years and she’s just forced to adapt to any outfit. So, when I came across Duck Apparel’s Puffer Tote; I was intrigued. It’s sporty and generous in its design, and is dynamic enough for practical needs. There’s something about puffers and duck-down that is truly winter-oriented; I think this is a must-have, for all your travel needs this season. Duck Apparel is also a husband-and-wife duo who set out to create the perfect puffer, locally, and are specialists in the craft of building outerwear that is less focused on performance activities, and more on everyday needs. Built on clear intentions, Duck Apparel are now growing their international market  – we love to see it.

Duck Apparel’s Puffer Tote Bag in Black and Stone

Written by: Holly Beaton

For more news, visit the Connect Everything Collective homepage www.ceconline.co.za

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