Country No. 8 in Fashion Around the World Series – South Africa

On the southern tip of the African continent, South Africa  (SA) has numerous ecosystems, Kruger National Park, which is a safari, plenty of beaches, lush wine vineyards, cliffs, thick forests and lagoons, and a flat-topped mountain called Table.

There are 11 official languages of SA: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Almost all South Africans speak more than one language, and most speak English. A local man named Poms, a nickname short for Samora Pumlele, recently showed me around Johannesburg, to both the high end fashion boutiques as well as to the smallest of local markets there. Rich or poor, women and men in SA have style, and many bead, embroider and create clothing, jewelry, or other fashion indigenous of their unique cultural ancestry.

Though there are many diverse cultures of people in SA, it is still one of the most unequal countries in the world where wealth and severe poverty can often be seen right beside each other. Poms, my well-spoken guide, who was multi-lingual and brilliant, was also homeless. In spite of that, his spirit was bright and fierce, so I know he’ll find his place in the world. I suggested him teaching English, or trying to work with one of the many NGO projects that we connect with through Jo’el Worldwear. The two of us didn’t have time to visit the local project where Zulu women hand-make beautiful African fashion. It gives me a great excuse to go back! Pictured below are the stunning creations of Designer Victor Rally, under House of Vicky. What I wouldn’t give to be adorned at a formal dinner in one of his ladies dresses. …..sure to “leave’em speechless!” And yes, he’ll custom design something for you! +27 (0)72 337 8267.

The rural parts of SA remain among the poorest and least developed parts of the world, precisely why the Zulu women and others come into the large cities to find work. They are trying to recover from apartheid, which lasted almost 46 years. So how did it begin and end? Dutch traders, who founded Cape Town in SA, landed in 1652 and established a stopover point on their spice routes to the Far East. The British then came and seized the Cape of Good Hope in SA in 1806. Many Dutch moved north to establish their own republics. Later, the discovery of diamonds and gold brought foreigners to SA, which slowly began to segregate the original native inhabitants. The British and Dutch started ruling together, and over 50 years later, in 1961, they passed a “whites-only” referendum. The struggle for civil rights has been even more profound for people in SA to achieve than for people in the US and other parts of the world.

The African National Congress (ANC) led an opposition to apartheid, and many top ANC leaders, like the well-known Nelson Mandela, ended up imprisoned for decades. Internal protests and insurgency erupted, and externally, several  Western nations protested the imprisonments. Eventually, the regime became willing to negotiate a peaceful transition to “majority rule.” The first multi-racial elections in 1994 brought about an ANC-led government. Apartheid officially ended. Still, SA faces imbalances in decent housing, education, and health care, and there remains infighting within the ANC.

Despite the many political and social problems, its culture is rich, and vibrant and alive. The fashion speaks loudly of this great culture in both men’s and women’s clothing designs. The many diverse languages all seem to translate to “beauty” in the end, and even with the unseen wounds in the people, they are no less for wear! 

Thabo Khumalo, Designer and CEO of Tovch, has definitely created the envy of men’s fashion in this jacket below. We can only hope his exquisite designs make it on to the runways in London and New York soon!

My husband didn’t get one of the amazing jackets, but he will enjoy one of Thabo’s smaller men’s designs! Call Tovch at: +27 (0)73 135 3022, or visit:

The local markets and small boutiques boast of colorful creations, no matter how dark the past might have been. I clearly saw the resilience and positive power of the people of SA.



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