South African Fashion: An Insider’s Guide

By: Chantelle Symester

July 23, 2014

There’s no better way of observing the influences and cultural trends of a country than through its fashion and style purveyors. Bloggers Anthony Bila of The Expressionist and Sheri Lee Greenway of SAFashiongirl know the vibrant South African fashion scene like no other. Here they reveal some of the trendiest haunts in Cape Town and Johannesburg for those eager to shop like a local.

Eclectis street style | South African Fashion

Eclectic fashion on the streets at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg © Anthony Bila

The best shopping in town

Old Biscuit Mill | South African Fashion

Old Biscuit Mill is one of the best shopping destinations in Cape Town © Jennifer Martinez/Flickr

Sheri Lee Greenway (Cape Town): Locally I really love The Lot because they’re edgy and on trend. I think Kloof Street is great for picking up interesting finds, but the Neighbourgoods Market that runs every Saturday at The Old Biscuit Mill might be even better. Over 100 local traders sell everything from jewellery and fashion to food, so I think checking out the Biscuit Mill is a must-do!

Anthony Bila (Jo’burg): There are great areas to shop depending on your sense of style, but the main hub for designer brands is definitely Hyde Park, Sandton City and Rosebank. If you’re looking for more streetwear brands, Braamfontein and even Soweto’s Maponya mall are popular. Among the youth other popular stores include Dope Store on Commissioner Street and Prime in Braamfontein and Rosebank.

Trendsetters and tastemakers

Trendsetters and tastemakers | South African Fashion

A style to suite every subculture can be found in South Africa © Anthony Bila

Sheri: I support a lot of my peers who have recently started their own businesses and SAXAS, who are based in Sandton, Johannesburg, is one of them “” I like their fun and fresh aesthetic. Also, Shana Morland Clothing, which is designed by the daughter of Stefania Morland – the store is based on Kloof Street in Cape Town.

Anthony: Trends really depend on what subculture you subscribe too. For instance, you can get the Pantsulas who appreciate brands like Dickies, Converse and BVD, and they wear bucket hats, dungarees, chinos and floral shirts as staples. I appreciate South Africans who really take the local flair of fashion and mix it with what they see on the Internet. South Africa has over 11 official languages, and nine different ethnic and cultural groups, coupled with all the western and eastern influences. The only real way to describe South African style would be truly unique. My favourite local designer is Zano Sithetho, who designs a menswear range called Skorzch. He encompasses both African and International sensibilities and his suits are bespoke, which means he has a keen eye for detail and good fit. Other noteworthy designers include Jamal Nxedlana for Miss Shape and “˜Cutterier’ by Laz Yani.

Skorzch Lookbook | South African Fashion

The latest shot from local designer Zano Sithetho’s line Skorzch © Anthony Bila

Street style hangouts

Vibrant Street Fashion | South African Fashion

Local hangouts in Braamfontein and Constitution Hill are prime spots to capture great street style © Anthony Bila

Sheri: Street style has always been pretty varied, but I would say that Jo’burg style is more polished and dressy, while Cape Town style is more laidback and bright. Every young person believes that his or her generation is a lot less conservative than the previous one, but it does depends on where you go. You can still get a funny look for wearing something out-of-the-ordinary, but generally people are welcoming of interesting looks.

Anthony: The most prominent place for street style in Johannesburg is Braamfontein, where you’ll find food markets, coffee shops, independent clothing stores, bars, hotels and one or two small ‘clubs’. Other areas include Melville, Parkhurst, and Greenside.

Top local trends right now

Local trends | South African Fashion

The fashionable cool crowds are currently wearing hats in all shapes and sizes © Anthony Bila

Sheri: Chunky footwear and hats/headwear are pretty big trends in South African fashion right now. People are dressing around a statement piece and keeping the rest of their outfits muted. Right now it’s winter so textured sweaters are everywhere. I really like knee-highs teamed with skirts or anything 90s inspired at the moment.

Anthony: The closest thing to a trend in Jo’burg is wearing hats; a popular local brand is Simon and Mary, who often collaborate with young designers/tastemakers to reinvent old styles of hats. Otherwise, the trend is to dress as you please, and not follow a formula or style for the sake of it.

Header image © Anthony Bila

Virgin Atlantic operate daily flights to to South Africa from London Heathrow.

Are you a fan of South African fashion? Share with us some of your favourite fashion designers and boutiques in Cape Town and Jo’burg in the comments section below.

Written by Chantelle Symester


Chantelle Symester

Chantelle Symester is a writer and editor based in London. When she’s not chained to her laptop working she can be found hopping on a plane to far flung places across the globe. Trips so far include adventures to Mexico, South America and North Africa and she now has her heart set on discovering the East. You can find her @csymester