What Heritage Day means to these SA designers

The Bam Collective.

The Bam Collective.

Published Sep 15, 2023


Heritage Day is one of the biggest holidays on the South African calendar. Celebrated annually on September 24, it pays tribute to the cultural wealth of the country, recognising its diverse cultures and traditions.

As such, three South African fashion designers shared what this day means to them.

Aretha Doyle, the founder of Cool Tabs Accessories, is one of the local designers who celebrates Heritage Day every day with her unique accessories.

South Africans are big on recycling, and Doyle is one of them. Her love for recycling shines through with their sustainable bags made of cool drink can tabs.

“South Africa is a diverse country with several cultures. Cool Tabs Accessories does not only make handmade recycled products but our products are modernised traditional accessories, some inspired by our African traditional bead’s neckpieces.

“Cool Tabs products can be worn with traditional outfits. Our bags look very cool with Xhosa attire (umbhaco). These bags can be worn with anything, you can dress them up or down. That simply means that any culture can be easily accommodated,” says Doyle.

Handmade bag by Cool Tabs Accessories.

What she loves the most about being a South African are the indigenous cultures, different types of food and how our traditional houses are built and painted.

“I love that it can be expressed in different art forms like music, dance, art, sculptures, beadwork and traditional attires. Our traditional customs beliefs, and methods have existed for a long time and haven’t changed.”

With the help of IFW Business, Doyle will be showcasing in Zurich next week, and since this will be her international debut, she hopes the international market loves what South Africa has to offer.

“This is the first international show for Cool Tabs Accessories, so we expect lots of exposure. Through the years of existence, we’ve gained many international clients, some buying to resell.

“Because of that, we know for sure that there is a market for Cool Tabs in the International platform. We hoping to get international buyers that we can supply with our products."

Jacques Bam of the BAM Collective, raised in an Afrikaans home, says what he loves the most about South Africa is that it is one of the most diverse countries in the world.

“The melting part of cultures and people creates interesting art and beautiful conversations, and I think it’s a great day to celebrate that. To celebrate different people and learn from their experiences, which I always find as something that builds my creativity.”

The vibrancy and the positive spirit South Africans have inspired Bam in his craft because he always has them in mind when making clothes.

“I love the people who surround me, I love my life and being with people who come from different cultures with different religions and different sexualities, and I think that’s what has become my heritage and what I learn from them.

“If I grew up in a different country, my whole personality and how I look myself would’ve been completely different,” he says.

“When it comes to infusing our heritage into my craft, everything I design is South African people first. Diverse as we are as a country, one thing that unites us is that we have a joy for life and the vibrancy to our spirit that is very unique to our country.

“We love to have fun, we love to dress up, we love colour, laughing, and making jokes. That’s what I love about South Africans, that we can socialise with anyone.

Stylish dress by the Bam Collective. Picture:

“That’s what I do with my work, I try to infuse that spirit and love for life in designs, which tend to be colourful, vibrant, experimental and not too serious.”

Bam will soon be heading to Milan to showcase his upcoming collection as a preview ahead of the South African Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 24 this October.

For Caileigh Davis of Silver Magpie, Heritage Day is a day that showcases uniqueness in culture.

“It is also a way to educate and learn more about different cultures and heritages. I think as much as it is a day that is proudly South African, it’s also a great way of learning cultures and showcasing the uniqueness in each of them.

“Something that interests me a lot about Heritage Day is learning about different clothing people wear and food that is unique in their heritage.”

Although Davis is from South Africa, she was born to non-South African parents, making her feel like an outsider. She found her South African heritage through fashion.

“As a South African with a unique culture – my mom was born and bred in Zimbabwe, my dad is from the UK and travelled a bit before his family came to South Africa – I’ve always felt like an outsider in certain cultures, and as I get older, I’ve tried to learn as much as I can.

“Something that interests me is the fabrication of different cultures and heritages, and as a South African with parents who weren’t born in South Africa, I try to find my unique element of being South Africa,” says Davis.

“Something I like about my heritage, which is British-Scottish, is the uniqueness of the Scottish culture and how each family has a tartan that is unique to their clan, which is something you see in South Africa with the fabrics that different cultures use.”

Davis enjoys using African fabrics in her craft. That way, she feels connected to both her British-Scottish and South African heritage.

Silver Magpie. Picture: Eunice Driver.

“When I look at my heritage and how I use it in my craft, I think fabrication is a very big one for me. As much as I love the idea of using standard fabric, I enjoy the idea of using fabric around making my own prints and grabbing onto my elements of heritage. I love using West African prints, South African shweshwe.”