Jota-Kena’s AW17 collection draws inspiration from the Ivy League lifestyle. The colours - white, chartreuse, burnt orange and tan, as well as forest green, navy and black - are reminiscent of the 1970s but the lines are softer, the clothes more flowing and the fit more comfortable. PICTURES: SUPPLIED
Jota-Kena’s AW17 collection draws inspiration from the Ivy League lifestyle. The colours - white, chartreuse, burnt orange and tan, as well as forest green, navy and black - are reminiscent of the 1970s but the lines are softer, the clothes more flowing and the fit more comfortable. PICTURES: SUPPLIED
Jota-Kena’s AW17 collection draws inspiration from the Ivy League lifestyle. The colours - white, chartreuse, burnt orange and tan, as well as forest green, navy and black - are reminiscent of the 1970s but the lines are softer, the clothes more flowing and the fit more comfortable. PICTURES: SUPPLIED
Jota-Kena’s AW17 collection draws inspiration from the Ivy League lifestyle. The colours - white, chartreuse, burnt orange and tan, as well as forest green, navy and black - are reminiscent of the 1970s but the lines are softer, the clothes more flowing and the fit more comfortable. PICTURES: SUPPLIED
Jota-Kena’s AW17 collection draws inspiration from the Ivy League lifestyle. The colours - white, chartreuse, burnt orange and tan, as well as forest green, navy and black - are reminiscent of the 1970s but the lines are softer, the clothes more flowing and the fit more comfortable. PICTURES: SUPPLIED
Jota-Kena’s AW17 collection draws inspiration from the Ivy League lifestyle. The colours - white, chartreuse, burnt orange and tan, as well as forest green, navy and black - are reminiscent of the 1970s but the lines are softer, the clothes more flowing and the fit more comfortable. PICTURES: SUPPLIED
Jota-Kena’s AW17 collection draws inspiration from the Ivy League lifestyle. The colours - white, chartreuse, burnt orange and tan, as well as forest green, navy and black - are reminiscent of the 1970s but the lines are softer, the clothes more flowing and the fit more comfortable. PICTURES: SUPPLIED
Jota-Kena’s AW17 collection draws inspiration from the Ivy League lifestyle. The colours - white, chartreuse, burnt orange and tan, as well as forest green, navy and black - are reminiscent of the 1970s but the lines are softer, the clothes more flowing and the fit more comfortable. PICTURES: SUPPLIED

Conscious fashion and clothing are trending terms nowadays as more customers are rallying behind brands that are committed to sustainable practices

What’s in a name? Jota-Kena is Tanith and Keziah Swinford - co-founders, creative directors and designers. Behind the scenes are Annette Steenkamp (admin and production) and John Swinford (co-founder, general manager and proud dad) and Sonia Hoffman and Fatima Ajam, their very much hands-on seamstresses.

Please tell us about yourselves? We are farm girls, originally from the Northern Cape. We come from a close-knit, supportive family. We’re fun-loving adventure-seekers who love to create and see the wonder in creation. Although we take what we do seriously, we don’t take ourselves too seriously (often laughing at our human-ness). Even though we were raised to believe we could do and be whatever our hearts desired, our parents instilled in us from an early age a solid sense of personal and social responsibility, setting the example in hard work and discipline. As a family who has always been involved in community upliftment, our aim with this business is to earn a giving, not just a living.

Jota-Kena’s AW17 collection draws inspiration from the Ivy League lifestyle. The colours - white, chartreuse, burnt orange and tan, as well as forest green, navy and black - are reminiscent of the 1970s but the lines are softer, the clothes more flowing and the fit more comfortable. PICTURES: SUPPLIED


What sparked your interest in fashion? As a three-year-old Tanith was already taking notice of fashion, she would remember people’s outfits in detail and her family were astounded at the things she would notice and recall. Her love for fashion grew as she got older, as did her appreciation for quality. She took a particular interest in the world of luxury goods, and as a teenager she would research companies in her spare time - looking into their history, corporate governance and design processes. When she joined her dad on a business trip to Paris at the age of 16, and after convincing him to take her to all the designer stores to browse their collections, she was convinced this was the world she wanted to enter.  Keziah’s love for fashion on the other hand was not initially as blatant as her sister’s although she would help Tanith make clothes for their Barbies.

What are you fascinated by at the moment in the fashion industry? More than any trends, what fascinates us most is the idea of slow fashion becoming more prominent on a global scale and the whole movement of sustainability even among big brands and celebrities. For example, H&M recently launched their H&M Conscious Exclusive collection, and increasingly we are seeing celebrities and designers wearing eco-friendly fashion as part of the Green Carpet movement. In addition, we love that Fashion Revolution has become a “thing” in South Africa with the hashtag #whomademyclothes.


Jota-Kena’s AW17 collection draws inspiration from the Ivy League lifestyle. 

How do influences from outside South Africa find their way into your work? Possibly the main way influences outside South Africa find their way into our work is through travel. It may sound really clichéd, but nothing inspires us quite like travel. We find that one of the “gifts” of travel is the fact that one takes notice of things in a different environment more because the element of familiarity is not a factor. We have a great love and appreciation for art, architecture, photography and different cultures, languages and people and this forms a definite thread in our inspiration (pun intended!).

And who is the Jota-Kena customer? The Jota-Kena customer is someone who not only has an appreciation for fashion, trends and quality, but also cares about the process and people behind a product. Our customer is conscious of what goes into a garment, what they’re getting out, and is happy that part of what they’re spending is being given back.

Who inspires you the most in fashion? In terms of designers, the Olsen twins (founders and designers of The Row and Elizabeth & James) really inspire us, possibly because we can relate to them in that we are also sisters who don’t come from a background in fashion.


* Look-book credits

Photography: Danielle Klopper Styling: Tanith Swinford Hair and make-up: Nicola Loots

Models: Tana Hendrikse, Kesha-Leigh Bantom and Sabine Erbe

* Jota-Kena is sold online at www.jotakena.com and from their studio space in Gardens (Unit A1 Earthlife Building, Upper Canterbury Street, Gardens, Cape Town).

* Connect with them on Instagram: @jotakena