We’re diving deeper into the concept of slow fashion, specifically slow fashion brands from South Africa. If fast fashion is the industry that produces trendy, fad items that only last a season and are available at low prices due to exploitative working conditions for the factory workers then slow fashion is it’s counter-culture. Slow fashion celebrates items that are timeless and durable while ensuring ethical working conditions and socially responsible practises. Slow fashion brands advocate for transparency, sustainability and support local communities and supply chains. They also prevent unnecessary textile waste in the making of their products.
Let’s take a look at some slow fashion and socially responsible brands that are paving the way in South Africa. In this list, I’ve included fashion and homeware brands as slow fashion doesn’t only encompass wearable garments. Low-cost homeware stores that use cheap textiles can also damage the environment and exploit the people who make them.
A slow fashion brand based in Cape Town, founded by Bryni. You only have to visit her Instagram account to know that she personally lives and breathes an earth-friendly philosophy in the most stylish, beautifully curated way and all that goodness feeds right into her brand. Elio has a 'little to no waste' approach meaning that some items are only available for a limited time as fabrics reach the end of the roll.
At Mungo it isn’t all about the bottom line. Instead, they take a humanist approach to business by ensuring sustainable production in a non-industrial environment. They don’t compromise the conditions of their team nor the quality of their product. They manufacture durable products as they believe in creating textiles that are made to last and not destined for landfill. As a part of their sustainability, transparency and traceability philosophy, they ‘hope that when people understand where something comes from and how it is made, they will find more value in it, and in turn this can help encourage conscious purchasing decisions.’
Also based out of the Mother City, Akina is a clothing design studio that produces sustainable swimwear and sleepwear. The fabric they use for their swimwear is made from post-consumer waste. They strive to produce locally-made products that feel good to wear without compromising the earth’s resources or it’s inhabitants.
Not quite produced in South Africa but co-founded by South African, Ash Stephenson and based out of London, Beacon Armour sells ethical products and produces the most beautiful stories about the makers or suppliers of their sustainable range. They hope that these stories will inspire and encourage humanity towards being more unified and loving. They celebrate the craftsmanship of curated specialists by supporting sustainable and ethically made products.
HempLove is big on transparency. They believe in having transparency through every stage of their production process, from the sourcing of raw materials to designing and manufacturing, their environmental footprint, and their involvement in local communities throughout Africa. Founded by female entrepreneur, Lorè, HempLove has a passion to promote and improve the skills sets of women in Africa.
Founded by Olivia Kennaway in October 2018, Asha : Eleven is inspired to work with factories that care for their workers. They work with small social empowerment groups who have incredible skillsets. They envision that the future of the fashion industry is one where sustainability is the norm, where we will no longer need to talk about the harmful effects of fast fashion, educate about it and drive for change. They believe in a timeless, trans-seasonal wardrobe that is made to last.
Produced in Johannesburg, Heart & Heritage is a lovingly made, women's clothing range that focuses on detail and finding beauty in unique silhouettes and shapes, They favour working in a subtle colour palette with soft and natural fabrics and use hand detailing to add depth to their work. Their name is derived from heart, meaning the central or innermost part of something and heritage, denoting a traditional brand or product regarded as emblematic of fine craftsmanship. Lesley, the founder and designer of Heart & Heritage says that she loves fine craftsmanship and the stories behind things.
Not necessarily marketed as an ethical brand, we think Hannah Lavery’s collection of inspired pieces deserve a spot on this list because of their commitment to transparency and inclusivity for people from a range of different cultures. Looking through their Instagram, it’s obvious that they support diversity and body positivity in their visual identity. Their commitment to fair working conditions and low waste practises can be found in their story highlights under @fash_rev.
If you have any favourite South African slow fashion brands that aren’t mentioned in this post, let us know in the comments so we can include them in future updates of this list.