Although YDE remains my staple #WearSA shop, there are plenty of other shops that stock proudly South African clothing brands, some of which are very unassuming and totally affordable…
1. Young Designer’s Emporium
No list of stores stocking South African brands would be complete without the indispensable YDE. Most of the clothes are made with imported materials but in South African factories. The designers, too, are all up-and-coming South Africans which is another plus. YDE’s best for formalwear in a traditionally feminine style but there are always pieces for everyday.
Many of the accessories are actually made in China but the brands are South African; you are still contributing (profit) to the South African economy.
The prices are nearer R1000 than a R100 but if you hang around for the sales, you’ll get the best of both worlds: local and affordable! YDE is also good for investment pieces, with some truly gorgeous winter coats!
2. Mr Price
Mr Price was once the local textile industry’s natural enemy but it has now worked hard to sponsor the industry. It’s no longer Made in China central; check the clothing labels to find a few “Made in South Africa’s”; plush cotton towels produced in South Africa; and multiple lines of clothing and homeware designed by local designers. And, of course, Mr Price is very affordable.
3. Pick ‘n Pay
Pick ‘n Pay’s Real Clothing brand has a scattering of South African-made items. I’ve bought a pair of pajamas for under R200 that was locally-made. With these kind of affordable stores, it is important to just check the labels of every item to be sure.
A good department store with several South African brands, Edgars offers items across the price range.
On the higher end of the spectrum is Levi’s. Although an American brand, their jeans are manufactured in South Africa. For smaller budgets, Tomy Takkies are a local classic. The brand claims that the shoes are manufactured in South Africa but both my pairs clearly say “Made in China”…
Tomy Takkies is owned by Bata which does have a South African factory so maybe some styles are and other’s aren’t made in South Africa. The brand, however, is a South African brand (founded by a Zimbabwean) so profit is generated for Mzansi.
Edgars’ in-house brands also sometimes stock styles that are locally produced, often marked with a South African flag sticker.
Tsonga is top of my list for locally-made footwear (they also do gorgeous bags). Although it is imported, the use of leather means Tsonga shoes will last longer and are also more comfortable than plastic shoes. Gone are the days of dark black and brown leather; Tsonga’s leather comes in bright jewel tones and metallic hues, as well. Many of their shoes also contain memory foam soles for arch support — pure bliss, every time! Some of the styles are a bit granny-ish and touristy but others are the perfect blend of fashion and comfort, such as the Emfuleni and Ethuso styles.
Tsonga is pricier than Mr Price, for example, but the leather really does mean that your shoes will last longer. (I’ve had a pair of leather boots that I bought for R1200 eight years ago and they’re still my go-to shoe come winter.) Although I got my first Tsonga espadrilles only a few months ago, my mom’s pair of Tsonga sandals lasted her five years before she had to fix the straps.
Another positive about Tsonga: the items are hand-stitched in a small village, Lidgetton, in Kwa-Zulu Natal, meaning that rural South Africans do not need to migrate to poverty-striken cities in search of work.
6. Bay Harbour Market
This lively market in Hout Bay is host to plenty of South African brands. They’re mostly small businesses with eco-friendly or locally-made ethos that emphasise good quality. There’s plenty of affordable jewellery, accessories and some pricier, but attainable, clothing.
7. Greenmarket Square Market
You can’t go too far wrong with a meander through Greenmarket Square’s market. There are plenty of small stalls selling hand-crafted, local goods (although many sell similar stock). Price-wise, things are totally affordable: a few years ago, I bought a stunning blue leather satchel for just R120! There’s a wide selection of souvenirs but locals can enjoy browsing for jewellery, leather goods and homeware.
8. The Space
The Space offers quirky designs in luxurious fabrics. The store is a great supporter of local design and production and browsing is always a pleasant experience. The items are priced in the same range as YDE but the designs are quite different: the clothes are more conservative, better tailored for the average South African body, with smoother fabric, and often quite quirky. Don’t expect sparkles or plenty of tulle; for classics like the LBD, the Space is a good bet.
9. Made in SA
As the name says, everything in this store is locally produced. The shop is targeted at tourists so not everything in it will appeal to locals. However, for jewellery, homeware and general gifts, you can’t go far wrong. Be prepared for steep prices, particularly for homeware: gorgeous hand-embroidered pillow cases for almost R1000 and printed cotton table cloths for around the same price. I really do recommend this store for buying gifts: there’s a lovely range of bath and skin products; affordable and unique sterling silver necklaces; and knick-knacks like bottlestoppers.
There is also a selection of clothing but it is all earmarked for the tourist: t-shirts full of “Cape Town” and the Big Five.
Woolworth’s loves to parade its efforts to save the world; although it seems more focused on eco-friendly goods, it does also pay attention to the South African textile industry. My relationship with Woolworths is usually very thorny but even I’ll admit that there are some good, locally-made items available. As with any department store, check the labels.
There are, of course, plenty of tucked-away stores that supply South African clothes but these are some of the best, most accessible bets. If there’s any other store that you think should be in my top ten, let me know!