Internationally renown South African designer, Thula Sindi’s ‘Africa Rise’ store, erects a platform for some of South Africa’s top designers to showcase their work in prime spaces, and to further cement their brands into the local market.
By: Mokgadi G Letsoalo
Blacklight recently visited ‘Africa Rise‘ store, in Sandton City, for a meet and greet session with some of the talented designers housed at the store, like Ephraim Molingoana of Ephymol, Palesa Mokubung of Mantsho, Mapitso Thaisi of Shweshwekini, Matte Nolim of Matte Nolim and Adhiambo Mula Lauwers of Galago, to name a few.
We caught up with some of the designers who are currently occupying the space and asked them about the concept and their vision for their brands.
Watch Mokgadi chat to some of the designers at the Africa Rise store meet & greet party:
Palesa Mokubung – Mantsho @paselamokubung
Blacklight: Please tell us how the concept of the store aligns with your brand?
Palesa: The store is called Africa Rise; it was set up by an amazing designer, creative and overall visionary, Thula Sindi. He wanted to house a few of the best that South Africa has to offer.
He wanted to have it all in one space because this is the formula used all over the world and South Africans have proven over the last decade they are serious about their talent. They have taken what they do to heart and they are real entrepreneurs.
They have also shown that they can lead in their own right and space, in their own voice and aesthetics. So, I think that’s what he wanted to bring, a group of people that have the same level of passion for the creativity of clothes as a whole.
Blacklight: What do you love about your brand?
P: There’s something for everybody. I make clothes that women can feel comfortable in and really live their lives in. You can go to events, you can live your life with your children and husband, and you can run a business in them.
You don’t have to wait to wear my pieces; maybe some items depending on who you are may be for a special occasion. But I think of making clothes that women can live in because I don’t believe that fashion should be stuck in a wardrobe to be worn once in a while.
Blacklight: What do you hope to gain by aligning yourself with this store?
P: It means I am in business with the best of the best. Sandton is a premium location so that alone means that I will attract a new customer; someone that aspires to be dressed in a certain way. It is aspirational.
This is the right place to be, I respect everyone in this space. I think we are all on the same level in some way. It’s about realising that it’s about how you are doing it, and at the end of the day we are all doing the same thing, which is making clothes and running our businesses.
Blacklight: How would you say you have opened up the industry for upcoming designers?
P: We do that everyday. I get a lot of emails from graduates looking for an opportunity. For instance, I had a mentorship programme last year for 10 students from Eastern Cape.
They came to my studio for 10 days, I mentored them and helped them in creating two looks for their year-end fashion show which was a competition, and three of them won.
I am hoping that, from here on, they will come to intern with me for 12 months.
I believe I have opened the industry and I am passionate about that. Everybody should open the industry, there’s room for everyone.
Mapitso Thaisi – Shweshwekini @shweshwekini
Blacklight: You are from Cape Town, how has moving your brand to Jo’burg been so far?
Mapisto: Jo’burg has been really great so far. The brand is manufactured in Cape Town and since being in the Africa Rise store we have seen a lot of growth, especially on the commercial side.
Blacklight: Which clientele does your brand represent?
M: Clients that are literally on the move, people who know their body size, who know their shape, and who know what works well for their bodies.
Blacklight: What is your 2020 vision for the brand?
M: More inclusivity. We will be expanding more towards the men’s range – we are bringing men’s swimwear, boxers etc. People can also look forward to seeing a bit more cover ups and designs that are accommodating to bigger bodies. We have received a lot of feedback from the market and we hope we can be able to continue to grow as a brand.
Blacklight: What does it mean for your brand to be under the same roof as these other labels here at Africa Rise?
M: For us to be here with great and accomplished brands like Thula Sindi and Mantsho, it means that our brand is equally strong and is becoming easily recognisable. It also means that we are also doing something right in the market and we are filling a needed gap.
Matte Nolim – Matte Nolim @mattenolim
Blacklight: Can you tell us more about your brand?
Matte: It’s a ladies brand which is very fashion forward. I would describe it as modern minimalism with a bit of drama – there is always something that is a little bit extra special on all my designs.
Blacklight: What does it mean for this brand to be here at the Africa Rise store?
M: Sandton has good traffic and a good clientele, and because of that I feel like the brand will develop a lot more trust from consumers because of where it is situated.
Blacklight: You are sharing the space with some of SA’s biggest brands, how do you feel about that?
M: It is truly amazing to be around people I have looked up to my entire life, like Thula and Erre, who are literally our parents in the industry. The industry is still quite young, so it’s good to be around people who understand the industry and who have had a long run in the industry.
Blacklight: What should we look forward to from your brand in 2020?
M: A lot of fashion forward pieces. With the pieces we keep it clean but there is always a touch of drama.
Adhiambo Mula Lauwers – Galago @galagoonline
Blacklight: What exactly are you bringing to the store?
Adhiambo: We are bringing quirky African vibes and everything is hand-made in Jo’burg. We want to make African fashion affordable, accessible and easy to wear.
Blacklight: What does it mean to have your brand among some of the major fashion houses in Africa?
A: It is incredible. Everyone wants to support African fashion but everyone is far away, so having 16 or 18 different brands in one roof, where it’s central, is great.
Here we have access to tourists, people who work around the area, and people who come and shop at some shops here will be more exposed to African fashion.
This is a perfect place for anybody that wants to showcase their product, particularly well-made Africa products.
Blacklight: What can we expect from your brand this year?
A: This year is about beads and hand craft. With our brand we have a beautiful take on classic shoes, while also remaining fun, unique, and African but still contemporary.
Tsakane Mashaba – Hamethop @hamethop
Blacklight: Can you tell us more about your brand?
Tsakane: Our products are non-seasonal, so we create non-seasonal expressions. We create for an individual that is very expressive with their wardrobe, so what we have done now is open ourselves up to apparel, which is something that we never thought we would do. What you see in this store is the launch of our apparel wear.
Blacklight: What has been the reception like?
T: Because we are surrounded by major international brands it makes it easier for people to come in and consume the product, and they actually find it quite cost effective than the international brands.
Blacklight: Looking at the store and the type of brands in here, what do you think it says to upcoming designers?
T: That it’s okay to start small – your first idea is good enough and you can keep going and growing from there. We started as a brand that makes accessories and now we are finding ourselves doing apparel to fulfill the wardrobe of women that appreciate our product.
For more on Africa Rise go to: africariseonline.co.za