Ashleigh McCulloch is a South African designer and founder of Monastery. Her fascination with the human need to reach sanctity is her impetus for creating quintessential pieces that exist in an imperfect world.
We reached out to her to find out about her journey and the inspiration behind her Monastery SS16 range.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Johannesburg.
How has your childhood inspired your decision to be a fashion designer?
I only learned how to sew in my first year of fashion school, but my gran was an interior designer and a very talented seamstress. She had an old Singer machine that came attached to a table that I loved to tinker with. When I was a child I was obsessed with Victorian dresses and the clothes in novels like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and my gran used to make me garments like that that I’d dress up with veils and lace. I was very melodramatic! I was always drawing women in long flowing dresses with heavy jewellery. But I really loved the idea of these strict garments; corsets and hoops, in hot dry landscapes, like my family’s farm. I loved the idea of a beautiful, extravagant garment looking totally out of place in this harsh outpost at the edge of an empire. Movies like The Piano and Picnic at Hanging Rock really illustrate that well with costumes.
I was inspired by a coming of age type experience, a person being cleansed of their innocence and ushered into adulthood.
What are the challenges you face in this industry?
South Africans are very hesitant to explore with their fashion choices. It’s a conservative country and it definitely reflects in people’s style. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find an audience for something more avantgarde.
What are the highlights of your career?
I think just starting this business is a highlight at this point! I decided to do it at a really challenging moment in my life and so far things are going well.
What inspired this (Monastery SS16) Particular range?
I was inspired by a coming of age type experience, a person being cleansed of their innocence and ushered into adulthood. I’m Catholic by heritage and I’m not religious but I’ve always been fascinated by the rituals of the church. I wanted to look at this as the first in a series of someone being ushered into a holy state. It’s the human need to become a better person, to constantly leave one aspect behind so as to acquire new knowledge and a greater meaning of one’s life. The pastel colours I chose were a deliberate look at naivety and youth. I’m currently working on where this concept will go next!
Where can people purchase your garments?
Hopefully the garments will be available online by early to mid-February. I’m also hoping to have a pop-up shop in Johannesburg around the same time.
Photography: Zele Angelides
Assistant: Obakeng Molepe
#NewBlackHistory: Street Fashion Pioneers heading Luxury Fashion Houses.
Over the past decade, we have seen street-wear and high-fashion brand collaborations take flight, and in the same breath, we witnessed a large pool of Black and Latino creative pioneers moving away from their companies to assist luxury brands.
In the early 80s, as one of the pioneers of streetwear, Dapper Dan introduced high-end fashion to the streets of Hip-hop by reinterpreting what luxury brands look like or how they resonate with street culture. Several decades later, in 2015, global music sensation Rihanna became the face of the Puma Women’s Training category, assuming the role of Creative Director. This aided in her reasserting her values and influence in the game and of course, lots of money was made here thus the trend began growing as the years went by.
In 2018 Virgil Abloh, the late founder of Haute streetwear label ‘Off-White’ and a longtime creative director for Kanye West, became the first African-American artistic director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton – one of the oldest and most powerful European houses in the business of luxury and lifestyle.
Recently, we’ve seen the trend of other highly influential luxury street-fashion brand owners who so happen to be people of colour joining the ranks of some of the most powerful houses in fashion and luxury.
Included in this pool is Rhuigi Villaseñor, founder of ‘Rhude’ who, as of January 2022, became the creative director of ‘Bally’, Switzerland.
Most recently Don C, founder of streetwear brand ‘Just Don’, joined the ranks of his legendary home town basketball team, The Chicago Bulls, as Creative Strategy and Design Advisor.
Hot on the heels of these big moves is Tremain Emory, the multi-disciplinary storyteller and founder of ‘Denim Tears’, who has just been named Supreme’s Creative Director.
Is this ongoing trend a strategic move within the culture for the greater benefit of streetwear, urban culture and its global influence? Or could it be a move by luxury fashion houses to simply grow their markets by becoming more influential in street fashion culture?
Are we at the ‘Virg’ of seeing the blueprint for a new #BlackHistory in fashion or are we being poached? You decide. Comment below with your point of view.
Shelflife x Chappies, a collaboration worth more than a “sticky currency”
Chappies is a bubblegum brand that was introduced to South Africa in the late 1940s; Spearheaded and created by Arthur Ginsburg while working for Chapelat Sweets (no prizes for where the name Chappies was derived from). It is an iconic brand/product that has existed for many decades before any of us were born and yet has been a sticky thread that connects parts of our lifestyles and childhoods. From its unwavering affordability to being detested by our parents, this brand coloured our lives, filling it with vibrant memories that continue to connect us as South Africans from different races, environments and backgrounds.
Shelflife, an online as well as brick and mortar streetwear store with deep roots in graffiti and sneaker culture has collaborated with the Chappies brand to bring about a special collaboration that is close to our hearts. Conversations about the collaboration started all the way in 2008 through Shelflife and Dr.Zulu and after 13 years of discussions and major challenges the Shelflife x Chappies capsule was born; to celebrate a proudly South African legacy where street culture connects to our history and heritage through one of our most iconic brands.
We’d like to introduce to you the Shelflife x Chappies capsule which includes tees, shorts, hats, footwear, jackets, bottles, pins inspired by streetwear, sportswear, Chappies’ various fruity flavours, Chappies comic strips, graffiti and loads more.
Psst, their models are all actual retailers and stockists of Chappies bubblegum, contributing to a whopping 6.8 million pieces sold per day!
Check out the capsule below:
While writing this article I came across gems of facts about Chappies that I thought might “blow” your mind, for instance, DID YOU KNOW:
1. That a cartoon chipmunk was inserted under “Chappies” on the wrapper. It was felt that rural black children who possibly couldn’t read needed to distinguish the real Chappies from any substitutes on the market, and the chipmunk was distinctive. The wrapper still contains the chipmunk today.
2. That the brand was exported to Zambia, the Congo and Zimbabwe and in the late 1970s, Chappies held 90% of the market.
3. That Chappies became the biggest volume seller in South Africa. Just like Coca Cola was to be found in every nook and cranny, so Chappies was everywhere…
Lost Turtle, a young brand with a classic appeal.
We recently found a refreshingly young brand from a small coastal town of Margate in Kwazulu Natal; with humble beginnings and a classic touch. We caught up with founder Siseko Mhlana to find out more about Lost Turtle and the inner workings of his clothing brand.
Big things often have small beginnings, similar to baby sea turtles digging themselves out of the sand and instinctively beginning their journey of exploring and growing within a vast world. Much of the same can be said about this young brand from a small coastal town of Margate in Kwazulu Natal; with humble beginnings and a classic touch. We caught up with founder Siseko Mhlana to find out more about Lost Turtle and the inner workings of his clothing brand.
First and foremost, tell us about yourself and where youʼre from.
I’m Siseko Mhlana from Margate on the South Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Tell us about your brand, Lost Turtle… why such a name? How did it come about?
The name came about while I was talking to my manager at the surf shop I used to work at as we were discussing the history and meaning behind the names of the brands that were out there that didn’t make sense at the time but are dearly loved now. I noticed that you could name your brand anything and as long as its core ethos resonated with the community you want to represent and are willing to champion.
How long has it been out here?
The brand has been around since early 2019 with the first 10 t-shirts being released in July, and I haven’t looked back since.
What inspires you to create?
At first, it was trying to make stuff that looked cool but over time I evolved to be inspired by everyone that I met and interacted with from being able to travel for a couple of years.
How would you describe the style of art that you imprint on the apparel?
Lost Turtle is a skate/surf brand heavily inspired and influenced by what the locals choose to wear and how they choose to wear any piece. I love the style and look of old school prints as they work as storyboards and posters to say something.
Who would you say is the target market for the brand?
I don’t really have a specific demographic as the brand has slowly evolved, and with so doing I have noticed that people have grown with us and we have attracted more people.
Your vision for Lost Turtle, Where would you like to see it 5-10 years from now?
I would like to have a handful of flagship stores around the world that can help me uplift smaller, local brands and give them international exposure. I wouldn’t mind having a dedicated team to help grow the brand from strength to strength.
With the COVID pandemic being the new norm, what are the current challenges of running a streetwear business during such times? Also, what do you anticipate post-COVID?
It’s been crazy as a lot of the things that I had planned had to be pushed back or just completely cancelled. I took the multiple lockdowns and hindrances as little breathers for me to learn and to re-think my approach to how I ran everything. There are some challenges that will still hinder the brand and many others as well. I am hopeful though and walk away with plenty of inspiration for future releases.
What separates your brand from other independent streetwear/culture brands in SA?
To be honest I would have to say it’s the community that the brand has been adopted into. Not having a strict demographic that I focus on has allowed the brand to be easily adopted by those who come across it. We don’t chase the crowd and that seems to have set us apart from everyone. I am grateful for the community.
Whatʼs currently in the works that we can expect to see next from Lost Turtle?
I got some stuff cooking in the kitchen and just released an Instagram Filter called Stolen Moments with Lyle Minnaar and Lost Turtle Tapes Volume 3 curated by Your Uncle Garry. There are many little projects that are going to be dropping soon so stay tuned.
As the brains behind Lost Turtle, what need or desire do you think you are fulfilling with this brand?
I am hoping that when someone finds out that the brand started out as a simple idea from a guy in a small town, they are inspired to do something of their own. Ultimately, I am hoping that this brand can rally the lost turtles out there together and give them a place and common ground to push themselves further.
Follow Lost Turtle on IG: @lost_turtle_apparel
Turning Heads. A fashion film by Kgomotso Neto
Last night I waited with bated breath as Photographer Kgomotso Neto flung a carrot dead in front of our eyes and told us to wait. The “carrot” came in the form of captivating video snippets which featured models with rich brown skin draped in crisp pastel colours. The subjects all turned their heads to a nostalgic and at some parts eery mbaqanga song.
I scoured the web and stalked his social media pages in search of a stitch of clarity and finally clicked on a youtube link thinking I’d find a longer video or perhaps a better understanding of what I was experiencing. I was met by a black screen with a count down clock and at that point, I decided that I don’t like carrots.
Finally, the anticipation is over, the full video is out and it’s not about carrots but about a much more personal story that many black South Africans can relate to. The story of getting your hair done on the streets or a banged up salon so that you can turn heads in your hood, school or your fancy office block. Here’s what Kgomotso had to say about the story behind the beautifully captured “Turning Heads” fashion film.
“I’ve always had my hair cut in the streets or at a local barber in my neighbourhood. The experience is always similar and the process of getting my hair cut is almost always the same – paging through a fashion magazine while waiting for my turn, getting seated on a swivel chair or if I’m in the street, it’s most likely to be a small colourful plastic chair. Once it’s my turn, the barber would first throw a protective sheet over my shoulders before he proceeds to clean the clippers with mentholated spirit and a tooth brush. He would then begin to cut my hair, I usually go for a chiskop. When he is done, he would hand me a small mirror so I can look at myself and see if I’m satisfied with his work. This is just my experience with cutting hair.
A lot of people go through different experiences when grooming themselves in street salons. Some go to have their hair straightened with a relaxer cream such as Sofn’free, some to get braids/wigs, others to just wash their hair and the process is always different for what you’re getting treated for, but the result tends to always be the same – when you’re done, you leave feeling good about yourself and chances are you might Turn Heads along the way.” Neto explains.
This film is far from a one-man project and was pulled together by this powerhouse of a crew, check them out on IG:
Production : @ubuso.tv
Director : @Kgomotso_Neto
Music : @mvziou – Stimela SeGolide
Editor : @superfortyfour1331
Stylist : @didintlen
MUA : @mamello_mokhele
Model 1 : @dimpho.mashile
Model 2: @zoe_pluto
Producer : Chris Briggs
Grade : @nic_apostoli
Mix : @audiophilepost
Retrofontein apparel flagship store launch is a phoenix rising out of Daveyton’s ashes.
Yesterday was a good day for Daveyton as we saw Retrofontein apparel validate their dream of launching a walk-in store for their brand. Since 2012 this brand has been available for purchase through pop up stores and some e-commerce sites but mostly through word of mouth, cash in hand and the use of instant cash sending facilities, which demonstrated Kabelo Tsoka’s relentless desire to get his brand on the backs of many dreamers and believers alike.
We’ve seen this brand grow from an experimental clothing brand to a staple for people who have their stories deeply rooted inside the township’s core, with a dream to grow their branches beyond the invisible ceilings in the sky.
The store took a gruesome 6 months to accomplish and came with a lot of valuable lessons, but the important question here is why did Kabelo not stick to the e-commerce game and avoid the so-called dying industry of brick and mortar (In this case a recycled shipping container) outlets?
“As much as I’m also working on an e-commerce site, I opened a physical store because most people In the East (Ekurhuleni) are still not there yet, I feel my brand needed a space nyana to create a dope brand experience and to make the brand easily accessible to the people. I just want to create the trust first before I can make my online store live, most customers prefer to physically touch the gear before they buy it”
At first search, Daveyton comes off as a violent township filled with nothing but teenage pregnancies and ashes. Colloquially known as Vutha , meaning “to ignite”, this township was dubbed “the first black township with electricity”. Daveyton has a very rich history in politics, rebellious soccer stars, culture-shifting entertainers and has had its fair share of gangsterism, crime and all the social ills that plague communities that have been forced into a dark corner to stay separate from the affluent communities (Then, white people) during the apartheid era.
Decades later after South Africa became a democratic country and black people shared equal rights in this land, a ray of light and divine hope pierced through the darkness to give a new meaning/narrative to Daveyton. This light and narrative came in the form of a league of forward-thinking entrepreneurs such as Kabelo Tsoka the founder of Retrofontein Apparel, a premium streetwear brand that now has an iconic store which sticks out as a vibrant structure and business in this township’s architectural landscape. What can the youth learn from such a development?
“More than anything, this taught me, patience bro, so the youth needs to be patient, follow your dreams and try by all means to make it happen because, at the end of the day, it’s YOUR dream”
Kabelo admits that he faced many character defining moments and one of the biggest challenges was getting the funds to make it happen as well as staying clear of naysayers who didn’t believe that launching his flagship store was a good idea…after all, it’s his dream, why would he let anybody else dictate it?
The store is located at 5039 Mocke street, Daveyton and is open from Tuesday’s to Fridays between 10:00 – 18:00
Check them out on the socials below:
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