Celebrate Shweshwe as truly South African

Aya Goods

If there’s one thing that’s truly South African, it’s shweshwe fabric. Typically made from cotton using prints in various vibrant patterns, colours and styles, it has been used for centuries. Some refer to shweshwe as the South African version of denim, so popular and widespread is it.

The cloth is seeing a revival right now, with many designers taking inspiration from Ghanaian designs (where the fabric is known as African wax cloth) and applying it in a variety of creative forms, from fashion pieces to children’s dolls.

The original shweshwe cloth was known for its indigo patterns, made famous during King Moshoeshoe I’s reign between 1786 and 1870. Many attribute the name “shweshwe” to him, while others suggest that it might be inspired by the rustling sounds it makes when you move while wearing a shweshwe outfit.

We take a look at 6 amazing KAMERS Summer Makers creating goods from this beautiful fabric right now:

Aya Goods Fashion

Designer and founder Lucy Mulima merges African wax cloth into a variety of trendy fashion items, from skirts and jackets to laptop sleeves and beyond. Each one of her pieces makes reference to African design, showcasing the outstanding patterns and fabrics that have been used through the ages, while bringing them up to date with the current styles and trends. Shop Aya Goods in the KAMERS Online Marketplace.

6 Degrees East Aprons

6 Degrees East garden apron

Don a handmade shweshwe gardening apron made by 6 Degrees East. It is designed to be reversible with tool pockets on one side and a harvest pocket on the other – a great help to the house-proud homeowner. In addition, the fabric is strong and can endure heavy use well, making it a perfect choice for gardening or a variety of other activities like cooking, flower arranging, craft and DIY. Get yours at 6 Degrees East in the KAMERS Online Marketplace.

Nomi Handmade

Nomi Handmade at KAMERS/Makers Summer 2016 - www.kamers.co.za

Shweshwe accessories are catching on in a big way too. Add a necklace, ring, bangles or earrings made by Nomi Handmade to your outfit – it’s a subtle way to incorporate the trend into your look. Personally, we have a thing for those bangles!

Shwe Shwe Poppis

These zany plush dolls are made from a range of brightly coloured shweshwe fabrics and each are based on a child’s drawing. Naturally, this means that each doll has a story of its own. It could be Philisiwe’s startled button eyes and love of the colour yellow that speaks to you, or Faith’s broad grin that makes you smile in turn, but one thing that’s for certain, there’s a poppi out there for you.

Shwe Shwe Poppis at KAMERS/Makers 2016 - www.kamers.co.za

Buying a Shwe Shwe Poppi also means supporting the African Children’s Community Education and Feeding Scheme (ACFS) which seeks to create jobs for disadvantaged members of society and a portion of the profits goes to ensuring that children receive a decent education.

Stitch Picnic Blankets

Stitch Picnic Blankets, shwe shwe fabric

As we mentioned in a recent summer post, a picnic blanket is a must-have for the season and what better option than one made from shweshwe fabric? A standard Stitch picnic blanket is 2m x 1.5m,  waterproof and easy to fold up and pack away for the walk to and from that perfect spot. Perhaps most amazing is the business behind these cheerful picnic blankets which employs women from formerly abusive relationships.

Stitch Social Enterprises seamstresses.

“Stitch Social Enterprise acts as a safety net to women coming out of Bethany Shelter (a home for abused women). Once their year of rehabilitation at Bethany is complete, Stitch serves as an opportunity to build sewing and craft skills, and to then reintegrate into society and earn a living,” Stitch explains on their Facebook page.

Kieke Kreativ

If you’re looking for something fun and different for your kids, then this beautifully designed children’s clothing line is for you. You can expect to find wax print skirts and Madiba-esque shirts that are just adorable!

Look out for these makers at our Stellenbosch show 1-6 November and in Irene, Pretoria, 28 November – 4 December 2016.

Photos: Carike Ridout, Aya Goods, Nomi Handmade, Stitch, KAMERS/Makers










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5 Responses to Celebrate Shweshwe as truly South African

  1. zinhle khumalo October 14, 2016 at 17:13 #

    How to i get a stall there selling hand made shweshwe and print shoes and bags

    • Charl October 24, 2016 at 09:23 #

      That sounds great, Zinhle! Please have a look at our Makers page for application details.


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