Browsing Tag


Heather in a dress from Dr. Pachanga

Fashion Makeover with Dr. Pachanga

As I’ve said before, I consider myself to be an unfashionable person. But the longer I live in South Africa, the more fashionable I feel. I find the fashion in South Africa — and Africa in general — more fun than fashion in the United States. (No offense, American fashion designers: It’s not you, it’s me.)

Dr. Pachanga is the embodiment of African fashion I like.

Fashion by Dr. PachangaDr. Pachanga, the last king of Congo.

Handbags from Dr. PachangaHandbags à la Dr. Pachanga.

Dr. Pachanga’s real name is Jean Rene Onyagunga. He was born in Kinshasa but grew up in Durban. Dr. Pachanga is a designer, an entrepreneur, a stylist, an actor, a photographer, and a social media persona.

This photo describes Dr. Pachanga better than my words can.

Dr. Pachanga jumpingDr. Pachanga, aka J.R., aka Doc. “I like to jump,” he told me.

Fashion Spree at Dr. Pachanga

I visited Dr. Pachanga’s shop in 44 Stanley last week to take photos for the Citizen. But somehow I wound up mostly on the wrong side of my camera lens, posing for photos instead of taking them. I also shopped more than I worked.

Heather in a dress from Dr. PachangaI bought this. (Photo by Marie-Lais Emond)

As part of the column she was writing, Marie-Lais asked Dr. Pachanga to “style” us. I was initially nervous. I loved the bright, geometrically patterned poncho-cardigan thing he chose for me, but I was suspicious of the light blue nylon pants. They were sort of tight but sort of loose and had a big bow at the top. Not something I’d normally wear.

But Dr. Pachanga likes to push people outside their fashion comfort zones and who am I to question him. “You’ve got to own it,” he said. So I owned it.

He turned out to be right.

Heather wearing Dr. Pachanga
I’ve been Dr. Pachanga’ed. (Photo by Dr. Pachanga)

I left Dr. Pachanga wishing I could stay all day. Besides the clothes, I just loved everything about being there — the pleasant light in the shop, the unpretentiousness, the color, the fun, Dr. Pachanga himself and his lovely assistant Thembi.

I don’t feel motivated to shop very often, people. When I do feel it, you know that place is on point. Go visit the Doc and you won’t be sorry.

Dr. Pachanga in his shopBy the way, he does men’s fashion too.

Dr. Pachanga is in the 44 Stanley Avenue complex in Milpark.

Folded Basotho blankets

#Gauteng52, Week 19: Where Basotho Blankets Are Made

Welcome to Week 19 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Aranda Textile Mills, home of the Basotho blanket.

Basotho blankets are not made in Lesotho, the tiny country for which the blankets are named. Originally produced in England, these woollen symbols of Basotho culture are now produced at Aranda, a factory/showroom in the South African town of Randfontein on Johannesburg’s West Rand.

I’ve been wanting to visit Aranda since I learned about it in 2013 from the Basotho blanket ladies of Clarens. (Read more about Basotho blankets and the blanket ladies here and here.) I finally got my chance a few weeks ago.

Basotho blankets at ArandaThe Basotho blanket sales room at Aranda.

Aranda’s extraordinary story started several generations ago with the Magnis, an Italian textile-making family in Tuscany. The Magnis’ factory was destroyed by the Germans during World War II, and a South African colonel convinced the family to move their operation to South Africa after the war ended. After several decades of producing a range of blankets and shawls at their mill in Randfontein, the Magnis added Basotho blankets to their repertoire in the 1990s.

Basotho blankets have an extraordinary history of their own. I’ve touched upon it in my previous posts, but the Aranda website includes many details that I wasn’t aware of before. I can’t retell the story as well as they already have so please read it there.

Basotho blanket paintingThis incredible painting, featuring a man in Lesotho wearing the signature “NZ” blanket, hangs in Aranda’s front office. Read more about it here.

Visiting Aranda Textile Mills

My friend Marie-Lais and I showed up at Aranda without an appointment, which turned out to be a mistake. We only had a few minutes to speak to Marketing and Sales Director Tom Kritzinger, who was on his way to another meeting, and it would have been nice to speak with him longer as Tom has an encyclopedic knowledge of Basotho blankets. It also would have been great to tour the factory but we didn’t think to arrange that ahead of time. But Tom did give us permission to take pictures in the sales room so we headed back there to explore.

Ray and I already own two Basotho blankets and there was no need whatsoever to for me to buy another. But damn, did I have to hold myself back. I love these blankets. I managed to leave empty-handed but just barely.

Folded Basotho blanketsBlankets of all colors.

stacks of Basotho blanketsBlankets blankets blankets.

Even more than the blankets themselves, I loved watching people shop for Basotho blankets. People come to Aranda from all over South Africa and Lesotho to buy blankets, either for themselves or to resell to others in their hometowns. (Basotho blankets, which range in price from a couple of hundred rand to around a thousand rand depending on the quality, sell for quite a bit less at Aranda than they do at smaller shops in South Africa and Lesotho.)

Woman at Aranda looks at Basotho blanketA woman checks out different blankets in the Aranda sales room.

Man and woman check out blanketsI don’t envy the decisions they had to make.

Security guards outside the sales room help customers to wrap up their purchases, then the customers hop onto minibus taxis to head back to wherever they came from.

Pantries on Basotho blanketA man tries on a Basotho blanket at Aranda.

Winter is coming to Joburg, and I promise there is nothing better than a Basotho blanket for keeping warm in a freezing-cold house. Get yourself to Aranda before it’s too late.

Aranda Textile Mills are at the corner of Wol and Desert Streets, Randfontein. Call +27-11-693-3721 for more information.

Read all of my #Gauteng52 posts and check out the interactive #Gauteng52 map.

Oriental Plaza Instameet infogram

News Flash: The First Oriental Plaza Instameet (With Prizes)

I first visited the Oriental Plaza six-and-a-half years ago, on 18 August 2010, 12 days after I moved to Johannesburg. I know this because I wrote a blog post about it the following day.

Inside the Oriental Plaza
The first photo I ever took at the Oriental Plaza, in August 2010.

I’ve been to the Plaza at least 50 times since that first visit (read about other visits here and here and here), and the place still awes and delights me every time. It’s always at the top of my list of recommendations for things to do in Joburg.

So imagine my joy when an opportunity arose to work with the Oriental Plaza on a social media campaign, encouraging people to come to the Plaza for an Instameet to kick off the Festive Season. (“Festive Season” is South African for “Holiday Season”.)

I am so, so excited to host an Instameet at the Oriental Plaza.

Oriental Plaza Instameet infogramOur announcement for the upcoming Instameet — Instagram-speak for a gathering of photographers. As you can see, the Plaza is already decked out for Christmas.

It’s a mall, technically, but the Plaza bears no resemblance to the bland, suburban megamalls that Johannesburg is famous for. First of all, the Plaza is in Fordsburg, one of Joburg’s most multicultural areas and right on the edge of the city center. Second, there are no chain stores in the Plaza; every shop is individually owned, and some have been handed down through several generations. Third, the Plaza is a historic and cultural landmark — an important reminder of the atrocities of apartheid and the South African people’s perseverance in the face of those atrocities. (Read more about the history of the Oriental Plaza.)

Also, the Plaza is a really fun place to take photos. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve shot over the years.

the plaza
Looking down on the Plaza’s Grand Bazaar, shot many years ago before my photography game was strong.

Zaheer World of Samoosas small
Zaheer, one of the proprietors of the legendary World of Samoosas. 

Anita and fur coat at the PlazaAnita in a rabbit-fur vest (long story), posing with a funny mannequin. Mannequin photography is one of my favorite pastimes at the Plaza.

Rajashree Boutique in the Oriental PlazaThe Rajashree Boutique, which I visited my first time in the Plaza and still return to frequently. This shop is stuffed so full of dresses, scarves, skirts, wraps, and pillow covers that it’s nearly impossible to walk the aisles. I bought a skirt there last month that has since become my favorite article of clothing.

Moses at Style Fabrics in the Oriental PlazaMoses, a staff member at Style Fabrics. My friend Fiver and I recently discovered Style Fabrics — it’s one of the best places in the Plaza to buy African-print fabric.

Fabric from the Oriental PlazaSouth African prints at Style Fabrics.

The Oriental Plaza Instameet

Back to the Instameet. It will start at 8:00 a.m. (I know it’s early but we want to give people a chance to photograph shop-owners as they’re getting ready to open their stores) on 3 December, and we’ll meet in front of the clocktower in the courtyard. The meet will be hosted by rad Jozi Instagrammers @alessiolr, @jefflovesphotography, and me. Everyone is welcome, photographers and non-photographers alike; this is a great opportunity to hang out with friends, explore the nooks and crannies of the Oriental Plaza, absorb some history and culture, and perhaps get some shopping done and eat samoosas while you’re at it.

samoosa smI’ll be eating a few of these for sure.

Instameet Prizes

I’ve saved the best for last: There’s a contest with awesome prizes. We’ll be asking Instameet attendees to post all of their photos to Instagram with the hashtag #ShopAtORP. A few days later, the Instameet hosts will get together to choose the first-place, second-place, and third-place photos, and the winners will receive shopping vouchers for the Oriental Plaza (R2500 for first prize, R2000 for second prize, and R1500 for third prize.)

These vouchers are bound to come in handy for anyone, as you can buy almost anything at the Oriental Plaza. It’s my shopping destination of choice for curtains, scarves, kitchen appliances, tailoring, shoe repairs, spices, and of course, samoosas.

plaza portrait smAt the Plaza with my friends Anita and Johnson, circa 2012.

The Oriental Plaza is located at 38 Bree Street and has tons of secure parking. Meet in front of the clocktower, which is closest to the Lilian Ngoyi Street parking entrance (Entrance #1). See you on 3 December.

This post was brought to you by the Oriental Plaza. Opinions expressed are my own.

Fashion at Work Shop New Town

Work Shop New Town: The Embodiment of Jozi Coolness

If you read this blog then you already know that downtown Jozi is cool. But do you know about Work Shop New Town? This particular corner of Joburg takes coolness to a whole new level.

Fashion at Work Shop New TownNtsaki (left) and Jade (right), two salespeople at Work Shop New Town who are also contenders for the two coolest people in all of Johannesburg. They’re surrounded by shoes from Maria McCloy, one of Joburg’s coolest designers. I intend to buy a pair of these shoes very soon.

Work Shop New Town is “an innovative retail concept” in Newtown, adjacent to the Newtown Junction mall. It’s a modern, open-plan glass structure, filled with small fashion and design shops that meld seamlessly into one another. Work Shop New Town is built on the site of Joburg’s “Potato Sheds”, a historic fruit and vegetable market built in 1911 that was torn down to make way for Newtown Junction. There’s not much left of the actual Potato Sheds, unfortunately, but the old trolley tracks to the market are still there and run right outside of Work Shop New Town.

I’m not a big shopper, as I’ve said many times before, but Work Shop New Town has the kind of shopping I like. Local, colorful, and cool, but not snobbishly cool. Cool in the best possible sense of the word.

Jade outside Dr. Pachanga in Work Shop New TownI bought a 1980s vintage faux leather jacket for R250 ($17) from a Work Shop New Town shop called Dr. Pachanga. I don’t have any photos of the jacket and I don’t have any photos of the actual Dr. Pachanga shop, which is just to the right of this frame. But I do have lots of photos of Jade, who sold me the jacket. Because Jade is so cool.

Jade at Work Shop New TownSee what I mean?

In addition to about two dozen cool shops, Work Shop New Town also has a cool dim sum/cocktail bar called Town, which sells delicious (if somewhat pricey) dumplings and cocktails. Work Shop New Town also puts on great events, which brings me to the reason that I went there on Saturday.

BCUC performing at Pic Nic New TownBCUC performing at Pic Nic New Town. Jovi (right) is BCUC’s lead singer and Luja (left) is the bass drummer.

On the last Saturday of each month, Work Shop New Town hosts an event called Pic Nic New Town. The event takes place on the “urban lawns” just outside the retail space, and includes remarkably soft astroturf and comfy pillows to sit on, yummy food to eat, and fantastic, free live music. Last weekend’s Pic Nic New Town lineup included BCUC, my favorite Joburg band. BCUC puts on amazing live performances and there was such a great vibe at this event. I took a million photos.

Jovi of BCUCThose of you who have been reading my blog for a while might remember that BCUC performed at my 40th birthday party a couple of years ago. I love them.

BCUC drummerCheex, one of BCUC’s two drummers.

The crowd watching BCUC was every bit as cool and entertaining as BCUC itself.

Blue-haired ladyJozi coolness in blue.

Jozi cool red sunglassesJozi coolness in red plastic glasses and Ndebele beads.

Cool woman at Pic Nic New TownThis woman is so cool, she can take cell phone pictures without even looking at her phone.

Pic Nic New Town mirrored sunglasses Colorful mirrored sunglasses are in.

Baby at Pic Nic New TownCool baby at Pic Nic New Town.

Puppy at Pic Nic New TownThere was even a cool dog at Pic Nic New Town. Her name is Congo and she is a 10-week-old chow.

I loved Work Shop New Town and I loved this event. Note that you can bring your own food to Pic Nic New Town, and there are two large grocery stores conveniently located just steps away in Newtown Junction. Newtown Junction also has a spacious underground parking garage and parking is just R10 for the whole afternoon. There is no excuse not to go there.

Downtown Joburg is cool. Newtown is cool. Work Shop New Town is cool. Pic Nic New Town is cool. BCUC is cool. The end.

Ray in Hlamvu shirt

7 Reasons to Love Hlamvu Afrocentric Boutique

UPDATE (November 2017): Hlamvu is no longer located in Greenside. There is currently a Hlamvu shop in the Commissioner Street Pop-Up Arcade, and Hlamvu products are also available online.

As I’ve written before, I am not a fashionable person. There are many great South African fashion blogs out there and this isn’t one of them, so I generally stay away from writing about clothes and focus on the things I’m good at — like eating and instagramming and storytelling. But I’ve recently come across a boutique that I particularly love and I want to tell you about it.

Hlamvu BoutiqueHlamvu Afrocentric Boutique in Greenside.

 There are many things I love about Hlamvu Afrocentric Boutique:

1) Hlamvu is uniquely African.

Hlamvu’s founder and designer, Liflet Ncube, is originally from Zimbabwe. She founded the company in South Africa and the fabric she uses is from Ghana. The result is a unique explosion of West African and Southern African style.

Handbags and clothes in HlamvuColorful clothes and handbags for sale in Hlamvu.

2) It’s conveniently located (for me).

Hlamvu is in Greenside, which is almost in Melville. I love having such a fashionable shop less than 10 minutes’ drive from my house.

3) It’s affordable.

People often complain about how expensive clothes are in South Africa. But great clothes aren’t expensive if you buy local. Hlamvu’s clothes, despite being handmade with gorgeous, high-quaility fabric, are far cheaper than comparable merchandise from Woolworth’s. (Some of Hlamvu’s merchandise is made in Ghana but most of it is made in South Africa. And the last time I was there, Hlamvu’s lovely salesperson Siboniso told me that they’re in the process of consolidating all of their operations in SA.)

4) The clothes work on real bodies.

I love the simplicity of Hlamvu’s designs. The dresses and jackets fit just the way I like them — nicely tailored but not too tight, and not loose or shapeless, either. When I went shopping there recently I found several jackets and dresses that I loved but I eventually settled on one dress, which I wore to the recent Translating Joburg storytelling event.

5) Hlamvu has great men’s clothing.

My boyfriend, Ray, looks amazing in African prints. I bought him a shirt from Hlamvu for his birthday and he loves it. As you’ll see in the photos below, the shirt was made for him.

6) Alterations are free.

The shirt I bought for Ray was a bit too big for him off the rack. So I brought it back, along with another one of Ray’s shirts, and Hlamvu tailored the new shirt perfectly to match the old one. For free.

7) It’s a lovely place to shop.

The staff are friendly and helpful, the shop has great feng shui, the clothes tend to fit, and Hlamvu is just a delightful place. It’s a shop for people who don’t like shopping.

And now I will end this post with an awkward fashion shoot, produced by (and featuring) two people who know nothing about fashion: Ray and me.

Ray in Hlamvu shirt normal pose
As you can see, Ray’s shirt couldn’t match him (or his pants) more perfectly.

Heather in Hlamvu dress
Me in my Hlamvu dress, feeling awkward as I suddenly realize I don’t like fashion shoots.

Ray in Hlamvu boxing poseChannelling Muhammed Ali?

Heather in Hlamvu from above
More awkwardness. I wish I’d asked Ray to shoot a profile so you could see the asymmetrical hemline. But again, not a fashion blogger.

Ray in Hlamvu shirtRay, being Ray.

Heather Hlamvu crazy poseTrying to follow Ray’s example but not sure it’s working for me.

Ray gansta rapperChanelling his inner gangster rapper?

Heather Hlamvu closeupWhen I finally gave up on being awkward and decided to look normal.

If you want to buy beautiful, affordable, well-fitting African clothes in a delightful environment, make your way to Hlamvu Afrocentric Boutique. It’s at 133 Greenway in Greenside.

Freaky Friday in the Fashion District: Be There.

I’ve written about the Fashion Kapitol before, more than once actually. But I can’t say enough good things about it.

The Fashion Kapitol, which most people don’t even know exists, is quintessential Jozi. If you show up there (130 Pritchard Street in the Fashion District, next to the building with the giant “Sew Africa” sign) on the right day, at the right time, you will experience Joburg at its best.


This is Joburg.

Continue Reading

Fashion for an Unfashionable Person

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.

Continue Reading

A Very Furry Birthday at The Plaza

I’ve written several times about Joburg’s Oriental Plaza  — a giant Indian shopping mall in Fordsburg. “The Plaza”, as locals call it, is one of my favorite spots in town. So when my friend Anita called me up on her birthday and invited me to go to The Plaza to pick up a rabbit fur coat, I dropped everything and complied.

I know what you’re thinking: Anita’s birthday, The Plaza, a rabbit fur coat? WTF?

Anita, Johnson, and me at The Plaza.

Continue Reading

Real Women Wear Kilts

UPDATE: The Cargo Kilts shop in Melville closed in 2013. Sniff.

You might remember my post from a couple of weeks ago about the the Fête de la Musique. It featured Cargo Kilts, the new Scottish kilt shop in Melville. In that post I wrote:

I know these kilts are made for men but I kind of want one for myself.

A few days later I received a message from Sean, the manager of Cargo Kilts:

Very kind comments made by you about our new store, but I need to correct you. Kilts are Unisex, AND, we have been known to make mini-kilts for ladies. Come in for a measurement sometime…

Continue Reading

Vintage on Wheels

My friend Michelle was in town today on a nine-hour layover, and I took her on a whirlwind sight-seeing tour of Joburg. On our way to the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein we came across a Volkswagen Beetle parked on Juta Street. The car was covered in vintage clothes.

Lungi’s mobile vintage shop.

The car belongs to a young woman named Lungi, and her husband, Allah. Lungi (who seems to be the main spokesperson for the business) said they wanted to open a stall inside the market but the costs are too high. So they decided to set up shop on the street.

Continue Reading