Fashion for an Unfashionable Person

by | Jun 2, 2013 | Arts and Culture, Johannesburg, Johannesburg City Centre, Markets/Shopping, Tours | 20 comments

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.

Heather in hat

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

Sew Africa houses a school for budding fashion designers, as well as low-rent studio space.

Fashion Kapitol dolls

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.

Fashion Shack

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.

Fashion mural

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.

hat lady

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.

mannequin and hat

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.

shwe shwe

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 instagram

Shwe shwe in every color of the rainbow.

guy in window

Man or mannequin?

cake topper

Quirky cake-topper at Mama Rose’s Bridal Boutique, another Fashion District icon.

bag shop

I can’t remember the name of this shop. But it has amazing bags.

guys dancing

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.


  1. Debbie Johnson

    Lord…I spent this morning scratching my head saying, “does anyone in this world get me?” Your feelings about fashion and probably not getting married again could have come out of my mouth. *Someone* gets at least a little part of me! Yay!

    • 2summers

      Is this Debbie Johnson from McDonogh School? Geez, we need to get together someday and catch up on the last 20 years.

  2. Gail Wilson

    Great blog I really need to explore this area, hopefully soon.

    • 2summers

      You’d love it, Gail.

  3. amelie88

    Some of those hats are just amazing. In fact I think some of them may be fascinators? I only know this word because I follow Kate Middleton’s fashion choices (I love the way she dresses) and she seems to be able to pull off those crazy British hats–I feel like she could have worn some in the above pictures!

    • 2summers

      According to the Lord’s website, it looks like their hats have appeared at London Fashion Week. Maybe Kate will wear one someday!

  4. eremophila

    Ah! I’m not into fashion much either – jeans and good walking boots more my style, but there’s something so wonderfully expressive about a hat! Especially those gorgeous little cocktail numbers 🙂 In Oz, the main event for wearing a hat seems still to be – Horse races! Especially the likes of the Melbourne Cup where fashion is as important as the actual races 🙂

    • 2summers

      I must say, I wish I had an excuse to buy one of those hats. I need to find a horse race to attend 🙂

  5. gillian

    I have always been too scared to go there as I know that the protected part of Joburg ends just after the high court and just before the fashion district but you make it look so fab, think will venture there. And just love those hats.

    • 2summers

      Yes, it’s a great place! Just bring someone along and you’ll be fine.

  6. Tenney

    Love the selfie with the hat. Would be great
    to wear to the Preakness.

    • 2summers

      I’ve never been to the Preakness. Maybe I need to schedule a trip home next May. I need an excuse to buy that hat.

      • tenneymason

        That would be cool.

  7. Ross @ Travelstart

    Haberdashery, I have a house full of haberdashery! Exploring fashion districts is always exciting for me. It’s interesting that when I do that, the types of things offered there are not always the clothing the locals wear. I guess it depends on the diversity in the area too.

    And whether that’s man or mannequin, it’s quite man-akin. 🙂

    • 2summers

      Hahaha. Thanks for the comment!

  8. aliciamonet

    Amazing blog! I hope I get a chance to experience this great fashion district in the near future

  9. Ethel Maggie

    I really wanna model.That’s my talent and I know

  10. Thandi

    I will love to come to buy a fascinator advertised here by Latisha.Where can I find this shop in Johannesburg.Do you have contact details.Cant go in their website

    • 2summers

      Hi Thandi, I haven’t been over to the Fashion Kapitol in a while so I’m not totally sure if they’re still there. I will check the next time I’m in the area though. Are you in Joburg? If so, it might be best just to go over there and see. You could also try inquiring on the Fashion Kapitol Facebook page:


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