Fashion is not really my thing. I don’t buy many clothes and don’t keep track of what is and isn’t fashionable. Fashion is not something I ever gave much thought to at all. Until I moved to Joburg, that is.
Joburg has a wacky, unpretentious, Africanized, anything-goes kind of fashion culture that I love. Park yourself on any downtown Joburg street, on any given Saturday afternoon, and within a few minutes you’ll see a man wearing a bright red suit, giant plastic glasses, and white patent-leather shoes (or some combination thereof). You won’t blink an eye because the man will somehow blend perfectly with his surroundings.
There’s something about Joburg that makes me wish I were more fashionable, while at the same time giving even less of a sh#t than I ever did before. Does this make sense? Probably not.
Maybe this photo will help you understand.
Anyway, the Jozi Fashion District — a section of town spanning 20 square blocks but centering around the intersection of Pritchard and Polly Streets — embodies this unfashionable fashionable-ness that I’m failing to adequately explain. I’ve been to the Fashion District twice lately, once during the Joburg City Media weekend and once during a walking tour with JoburgPlaces, and I feel right at home there despite my unfashionable-ness.
Basically, the Fashion District has always been the center of the garment industry in Jozi — a place where people go to buy fabric, haberdashery (love that word), sewing machines, and such. The district is right in the middle of a hectic downtown area, which became extremely run-down during the 1980s and 90s. But over the last few years, the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and other organizations focused on inner city development have put money into reviving the Fashion District. It seems to be working.
Sew Africa houses a school for budding fashion designers, as well as low-rent studio space.
Funky African stuff for sale in the Fashion Kapitol, a rejuvenated square in the center of the Fashion District. The Fashion Kapitol was funded by the JDA and opened in early 2011. The square includes a ramp for fashion shows, a café, and space for about 30 shops.
The Fashion Shack, a shop/café in the Fashion Kapitol. The Fashion Shack is a great place to buy fashion-oriented South African souvenirs and it also sells coffee, burgers and snacks. I’ve only had coffee there, and I must honestly tell you that it wasn’t great. But the quirky atmosphere makes up for the mediocre coffee.
Small part of a crazy wall-sized mural in the outdoor seating area of the Fashion Shack.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not very fashionable. But every now and again I become enchanted by some quirky Jozi fashion item. This happened when I wandered into Lord’s Hats and Accessories in the Fashion Kapitol.
This is Latisha, one of the proprietresses at Lord’s. (Latisha runs the business with her mother, Folake.) I loved Tisha, and all of the hats. Please go pay Tisha a visit and check out the Lord’s website. Their hats are internationally famous.
The hat looks great on Latisha but it also looks great on this mannequin head.
My favorite. Where else but Joburg would you find a hat like this?
In addition to the Fashion Kapitol itself, there are countless wonderful shops on the surrounding streets of the Fashion District.
Studio 109, which is right across Pritchard Street from the Fashion Kapitol. Studio 109 is the largest supplier of traditional South African shwe shwe fabric in the country. I love shwe shwe fabric. If I had any fashion design talent (which I don’t) I would make things with it.
Shwe shwe in every color of the rainbow.
Man or mannequin?
Quirky cake-topper at Mama Rose’s Bridal Boutique, another Fashion District icon.
I can’t remember the name of this shop. But it has amazing bags.
I wrote a bit about this Fashion Kapitol dance performance in a previous post. Not directly relevant to fashion but I thought it was a nice image to end on.
If I ever get married again (highly unlikely but you never know), I will buy my wedding dress — and my hat — from the Fashion District. Latisha, please start working up some designs just in case.