South Africa has many talented fashion designers and every year, we are introduced to new ones.
Fashion is one of the largest industries in the world and the competition is tight. Staying relevant in the game requires designers to be innovative, creative and unique.
With fashion forever evolving, designers have to find ways to stay appealing to their customers without losing the ethos of their brands.
They faced that challenge head on in 2020 when everything came to a standstill due to the coronavirus. While some collapsed under the stress, many found ways to survive the turmoil and, as a result, expanded their brands by launching homeware ranges.
Gavin Rajah, one of the most successful designers in South Africa, was ahead of the times because in 2018 he launched a lounge collection with @home.
Following the successful launch of the “Gavin Rajah Prêt á Vivre | Ready To Live: a Chic Expression of Comfort” range in July 2018, that same year, in December, the Cape Town-based designer launched the Gavin Rajah x @home Indian Summer collection – a range of luxurious soft furnishings and scented candles.
In 2022, the designer collaborated with talented visual artist Zanele Muholi to launch a homeware collection inspired by Muholi’s Somnyama Ngonyama (Hail the Dark Lioness) series.
Titled “Somnyama”, the collection featured cushions, carpets, throws, curtains and candles. All the pieces featured the underlying aesthetics underpinning Muholi’s art, meaning that Muholi's work could penetrate beyond the walls of museums and galleries.
The abstract nature of the woven prints that Rajah has extrapolated from Muholi’s photographic series meant the images themselves were not simply being reproduced onto products, as has been the case for many homeware lines relating to iconic artworks.
Mzukisi Mbane, founder of Imprint ZA, is another phenomenal designer who has expanded his fashion brand to include homeware.
In October 2023, he launched Imprint Ikhaya, a brand dedicated to homeware. To launch his first Imprint Ikhaya collection, he collaborated with Airloom, a homeware decor brand.
The collaboration between Imprint Ikhaya and Airloom was no surprise as the designer has always loved designing homeware pieces, especially for his personal space.
“I’ve wanted Imprint to be in the homeware space. At my place, I’ve always created my homeware pieces, so it was a matter of timing and finding a partner that would work with the vision I had.
“Earlier last year, we reached out to different brands wanting to collaborate, and, luckily, Airloom came through, and when we spoke, it was a matter of understanding what I wanted to achieve and being passionate about collaborations, which made things easy,” said Mbane.
With Airloom, he launched a collection titled “Ikhaya”, which consists of rugs and ottomans draped in vibrant Imprint signature prints and a stylish couch exclusive to Imprint.
“The collaboration sort of assisted us to launch Imprint Ikhaya, so we now have a complete brand that focuses on homeware.
“We were inspired by living homeware spaces and looking at pieces that made sense, not just visually but something for everyone because some may not want a bigger piece like the rug but still want to be part of Imprint Ikhaya and have an Imprint piece to be part of their home, so the lampshade is an easy piece that someone can buy.
“There’s also an ottoman, a versatile piece you can move around the house, whether it’s the living room or the bedroom,” Mbane explained.
This year, the designer said he will unlock more collaborations and will be launching more Imprint Ikhaya products.
In April 2022, Maxhosa Africa hosted a sustainable fashion show at the Nirox Sculpture Park in Krugerdorp, Johannesburg.
They also launched their homeware range of bathroom towels, rugs, robes, cushions and throws.
Laduma Ngxokolo, the founder of the brand, said he didn't want to limit Maxhosa Africa to just clothing but wanted people to experience it as a proudly South African luxurious lifestyle brand.
You may be wondering why these brands make more than just clothes, but the truth is, fashion is more than just wearable pieces, it’s a culture.
Being stylish doesn’t end with wearable garments. Most fashionable people want their homes to be equally stylish because it’s a reflection of their personalities.
Also, you must remember that these are well-established brands with a huge clientele. Anyone who’s a fashion expert will know that to be successful in the fashion industry, you need to sell the brand, not just garments but other lifestyle pieces, and that’s exactly what these designers are doing.
They are selling their brands and, in order for them to leave a remarkable footprint, they need to sell stylish products that resonate with fashion-forward people and homeware happens to fit the bigger picture.