South Africa has always had a unique sense of fashion and, with local designers stepping up their game to international standards, there has been a slew of rising stars in the country. We look at the best local fashion from Durban, South Africa.
Holmes Bros began with two young brothers, Lauri and Gary Holmes, who loved surfing on the tropical east coast. At 14, frustrated at being unable to find boards he liked, Lauri began shaping his own boards in the family garage. His ultra-thin wafers were an instant hit at the beach and soon he was shaping boards for all the boys. A Holmes logo was developed for the boards and it was only a short step to putting it onto T-shirts and board shorts.
The brothers went on to study fine art and textile design. The brand has successfully participated in South Africa’s Fashion Week over a number of years and has been featured in Drapers London, Elle US, Nylon USA, and Collezioni Sport & Street Europe. Best known for its T-shirts, which take a quirky look at South African culture, the brand has a young fashion flavour for both men and women that represents the multicultural demographics of the country. The product range is designed and made locally in South Africa, as well as accessorised by local crafts people.
Amanda Laird Cherry
One of the most famous Durban designers, Amanda Laird Cherry is one of South Africa’s most established fashion designers. She has a studio in the heart of Durban with a core team that produces her designs, which are supplied to a large network of stores in South Africa. The warm and friendly designer studied fashion at Technikon Natal and then worked for surfer Shaun Tomson’s label Instinct.
With ten years spent in a whirl of international travel – attending and selling at trade shows in Germany, Paris, Las Vegas and LA, checking on fabric dyeing in Hong Kong, checking on production at their Lesotho factory, and meeting agents in Europe and America – Amanda learned the intricacies of running a fashion label in all its glamorous and gritty detail. Eventually she began the design label which proved a success and which is known for simple and clean designs with a twist that give it its unique Amanda Laird Cherry feel. The label has a range of dresses and leather brogues, pumps and boots that keep with the label’s efficient, clean and down-to-earth style.
Durban designer Carol Clark has a unique and vintage style that she represents herself; with her blunt fringe, quirky glasses and feminine style, Carol’s brand motto is ‘a celebration of all that is feminine and beautiful’. In 2008 she opened Carol Clark Designs in Durban North and nearly ten years later she owns three boutiques, including a homeware, clothing, and novelty shop in Kloof called Fat Tuesday, and her newly relocated boutique store at Gateway Theatre of Shopping. She has built up a loyal customer base.
Describing herself as a free spirit with a love for all things vintage and feminine, Carol says her designs are for women who are not afraid to express themselves, offering an eclectic mix of vintage and fashion-forward styles that aim to make women feel beautiful and individual. She says she wants walking into the boutique to be an experience, and she tries to make each store a little different. Her professionally trained stylists will listen to what you want and style you from head to toe. The label is a mix of vintage, quirky design filled with lace, and rich textures that promise a unique look.
Inspired by nature’s authenticity, Amy Venter has a passion for timeless style. She’s based out of a studio at The Commune in the busy Station Drive Precinct; the hip new spot for local creatives and entrepreneurs. Now six years old, the brand already has a strong following. Specialising in womenswear, Jane Sews focuses on classic silhouettes, but also does a number of pieces that are gender-fluid. The label recently launched a kids’ line and there are plans to incorporate some classic men’s styles in the near future.
Inspired by the concept of ‘slow fashion’, Amy says she keeps a neutral palette and uses shades and colours that can easily be mixed and matched so that people can build their wardrobes over time. Her pieces are versatile and suitable for layering, so fashion from 2014 can still be paired with garments from 2016. She also features linen and linen blends in her garments and is drawn to fabrics that feel good – anything that’s durable and long-lasting in terms of quality and style.
Silomo Ntombela says her mission is to provide dresses for plus-sized ladies that make them feel fabulous and confident. Her label focuses on female ware in the form of African-inspired dresses, skirts, jackets and tops, and aims to extend to shoes and bags in the future. The boutique was founded in 2011 after Ntombela received a bursary from UKZN (University of KwaZulu-Natal) to study Fashion Entrepreneurship with the KZN Fashion Council. Before that she worked for Miss Moneypenny, where she learned about designing and styling.
She has been involved in South Africa Fashion Week, The Durban Fashion Fair, and the Essence Festival. Ntombela claims South Africa desperately requires a boost in the economy and job spectrum, and she hopes to help by keeping her garments made in South Africa. With a unique African style that merges contemporary designs with bright prints, Silomo’s Boutique has built up a strong customer base in a short period of time.
Describing herself as fiercely patriotic, Kathrin Kidger’s range of stylish, upmarket ladieswear is made entirely in South Africa and represents her South African heritage. After completing her training at DUT (Durban University of Technology) and qualifying for the Student of the Year Award and Daphne Strut memorial prize, Kidger went on to win the Durban Designers Collection 2004 (New Generation category). This announced her future in the South African fashion industry by securing a coveted slot in South Africa Fashion Week. In 2004, Kidger established her label, Reine. After winning the Smirnoff Red Fashion Awards in 2004, she was able to focus her full attention on her label, with a style that is feminine, bold and bright, with long, flowing pieces that marry African identity with contemporary style.
Local Durbanite Thiran Moodley is the mind behind ready-to-wear fashion label Spine. Despite a degree in Εconomic Μanagement and Μarketing, the young designer decided to pursue fashion because his family business was in textiles and he couldn’t find any clothing he liked at stores. After taking a break from work, he made the decision to start making apparel for himself, a move that let him to have full control over what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it. Moodley is completely self-taught, a feat he says was made possible through numerous YouΤube tutorials.
Spine went on to become one of the pioneering pods at the new hip area in Durban, Eight Morrison Street. Spine offers men’s streetwear that not only has form but also function, with a versatility that leaves you with the option of being able to wear the garments to the beach or to a wedding. Keeping everything local, his clothes have the Durban 031 phone code, he only sources local materials, and uses cotton to keep his customers fresh in the Durban heat. If you’re looking for a Durban designer with an edgy, punky and ‘naughty’ style, head over to Spine to discover some local talent. While his pod at Eight Morrison Street is more of a showroom, the Spine store will be opening soon at a major Durban mall.
Having studied fashion in Russia, Larisa Terblanche returned to Durban where she started her own fashion label. She specialises in custom-made wedding gowns, evening wear and prom dresses that are specifically made to each customer’s requirements. In 2013, she was national finalist in the Vodacom Durban July Fashion Challenge and has showcased her work at the South Africa Fashion Week in 2014.
She applies the philosophy that a woman should feel beautiful on the outside and inside of her clothes, so most of her dresses can be turned inside-out. With her feminine style and eye for detail, Larisa MODA has built up a strong following in the Umhlanga area, where she is based.
Lindiwe Kuzwayo Design Studio
In the heart of central Durban in the busy Anton Lembede Street you will find one of the oldest fashion boutiques in Durban. Lindiwe Kuzwayo may have begun a career as a nursing sister but, after her husband gifted her a sewing machine, she eventually delved into the world of fashion, opening her own design studio all the way back in 1986. Considered one of the city’s Living Legends, Kuzwayo worked her way up and has exhibited in France, Egypt, Hungary, New York and Denmark, and has won numerous awards including The Daily News and Gcina Mhlophe Amavulandlela (Those Who Came First) Award. Her big personality is portrayed in her designs, that are bold and bright with a playful edge. She also runs a fashion academy from her premises.
Leigh Schubert may have studied fashion in Johannesburg but she was born and brought up in Durban, and it was her hometown city by the sea that called her back as she launched into the world of fashion. She was first a merchandiser for Ninian & Lester and then went to to buy for South Africa’s fastest growing retail chain, Mr Price.
It was after she won the Invited Designer category of the Durban Designer Collection that she finally decided to go solo and launch her own label in 2002. She has been nominated twice for the Marie Claire Prix d’Excellence Beauty Awards for Best South African Emerging Designer, winning the citation in 2006. Her designs have been described as sexy yet elegant, timeless but fresh, and uncomplicated yet interesting.