“I am an African. I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.”~ Pres. Thabo Mbeki
No more looked upon as something odd, the world has fallen in-love with African prints and even more with African art as we’ve witnessed African designers and artists showcasing their work at world fashion shows and renowned galleries, respectively. What has been most interesting in this growing love affair is that African printed clothes has been welcomed in the corporate world, and corporates are now purchasing African art as gifts for their clients, especially international ones. What’s even more interesting and powerful is that South Africans have embraced fabrics and prints from other African countries which may potentially become one of the forces that end xenophobia and brings Africans even closer, as fashion is a language understood by all. The most fantastic thing is that any item can be made, be it a jumpsuit or pencil skirt, and there are accessories that can go with any outfit such as jewellery, handbags and headwraps. Creating and producing African-inspired fashion and art has become a viable business.
With the growth of the internet and more consumers preferring online shopping to save time and money, opening an online boutique with only African-inspired items was a logical thing to do for the Bequest team.
Bequest, as an online boutique, curates unique and exclusive pieces from socially responsible fashion brands inspired by South Africa. They offer fashion conscious consumers beautifully hand-crafted pieces from talented fashion designers and ethical women’s cooperatives across South Africa, which is their contribution to sustainable development in the country.
Besides being a go-to platform for designs, Bequest also wants to establish itself as an online community, where customers can create personalized profiles, post pictures of themselves, exchange ideas and connect with like-minded peers.
What you can expect from Bequest is purely South African-inspired fashion. From clothes to accessories, there’s nothing that one cannot acquire from this premium online shop.
If you’re looking to be bold, daring and want to make a statement without saying a word, this is your go to store. The aim of the store is to revive the African heritage and legacy, and showcase Africa’s beauty and tradition.
Everything on the store is exclusive! They deliver, however, at an additional cost, and the items can be returned if one is not happy with them. They are currently working with four brands, namely, Mami Couture, Nzuri Africa, Roka Roko and Seamartist Apparel.
Some of the standout items from Bequest includes a Ndebele-inspired poncho as well as isigolwani, which is a neckpiece of thick beaded hoops, a yellow zulu women’s hat called isicholo which is traditionally reserved for married women, and a beaded mini jacket.
The spirit of Africa not only inspires fashion, but extends even to décor! What can you do with wire and beads? Anything, from animals to flowers to people, everything you see, skilled artists can make it!
Selling and even buying from the street is not esteemed as highly as selling or buying from a shop, even though the items may be of the same quality. However, many wire and bead artists do not have funds to open their own shops and so an organisation such as Streetwires is an answered prayer to some artists.
Streetwires works with over 60 permanently employed artist to market and sell their products not only locally, but worldwide as they export to over 15 countries. Being part of such an organisation ensures that artists have the resources they need to showcase their talent and make a living thus helping to alleviate the job scarcity issue we have in our country.
Streetwires clientele extends to corporates! Companies now buy African-inspired art as gifts for their clients, including international ones and this helps grow the market as more people get exposed to our art and creative work. As corporate gifts, the items can be custom designed to suit the company’s theme and budget.
For the more hands-on, Streetwires allows corporates’ clients and individual consumers to come into their studio in Cape Town to watch the artists work and even craft their own keyring. This activity can even be a team building exercise- quite a unique one that employees will never forget! It’s also a great activity for children and a meaningful experience for tourists who want to experience a bit of local flavour.
Most of Streetwires’ clients are local corporates, followed by international export clients (boutique stores / retail outlets), and then local retail outlets (curio shops).
As South Africans, we should buy more locally produced products, especially ones that speak to our nature, our heritage and legacy. We cannot rely on non-Africans to tell and profit from our stories. We need to support local designers and artists, irrespective of colour or class, as it will only take Africans to make Africa a strong contender in the world of fashion and art globally. – Nonkululeko Hlophe