While strolling through the Cape Quarter in Greenpoint, I stumbled upon an awesome, totally original store called 'TOWNSHIP'.
After more investigation, I met the owner and found out what exactly this store is all about.
Highlights: This is an African clothing store; Zolani from FRESHLY GROUND is the ambassador; the clothing is made from 100% African cotton; and the clothes are made and inspired by women in the Townships.
Below is the unedited version of my story which featured in the khuluma magazine, March issue.
Shop 10 Cape Quarter, De Waterkant, 27 Somerset Road, Green Point
Hidden in one of the New Cape Quarter’s winding corridors is a bright, rustic clothing store with an eye-catching country feel that really stands out among its prim-and-proper neighbours. Township is the brainchild of owner Nicole-Marie Iresch – an Algerian born woman who lived abroad for many years before settling in South Africa in 1990. ‘We had to leave [Algeria] when I was very young because of the war. I grew up in France and travelled the world over, living in England, Spain, Germany, Greece before joining Air France. You meet many people on board of a plane... I did not know much about South Africa but befriended with a South African lady when travelling in Brazil ... she invited me to visit her and introduced me to her country with great passion!’ And the rest is history.
During her initial visits to Cape Town, Nicole-Marie admits that she was not fully aware of the apartheid system and ventured into the townships on a number of occasions when she met a small group of women in Khayelitsha who asked her for support in order for them to create their own jobs. ‘I quit my job in Paris and decided to start a project with them. Was it courage? Probably, but more critically, I had the feeling I had no choice. This was my new life. I guess I was able to see what other people could not see: the life, the vibrancy, the hope, the inner beauty of the whole place. I saw the branded wallpapers inside the shacks and very early on, I envisioned that one day, I would create some township patterns’.
The first venture was to create shopping bags for Pick n Pay and bags for the conference industry. After completing a photographic study of the women’s houses and township streets, Nicole-Marie partnered with a textile design school in Paris too create the patented fabric designs, which were released in 2009.
She then spent 2010 designing the first collection, launching the store in December, with Zolani Mahola from the famed South African band, Freshly Ground as her ambassador.
All the items in the store, including the décor are inspired by the Townships and make use of second-hand furnishings. Expect to find skirts, dresses, tops, harem tops, ballerina pumps, sandals, men’s long-sleeve collared shirts, men’s boxer shorts and other accessories such as belts, scarves, bandanas and yearly planners. The store also offers a made-to-measure service.
‘Like any other business, I needed to overcome many obstacles and to trust my initial intuition. This gives you the strength to persevere. I felt great about what had been accomplished over all these years. A long journey... but it is not finished!’
All the garments are made in the township-based cooperatives and are made from 100% African cotton.
‘We are a Fair Trade accredited organisation and our relationship with the cooperatives is solid, alive. I believe this is the future, a future where you can build a solid bridge between the so-called first economy and the previously disadvantaged communities who can build their own future if being given a chance. We are very proud of the quality products we are producing together. We are a proudly South African textile brand and we want to demonstrate that ethical fashion is a vibrant, forward looking concept which can help to save and create many jobs in the textile industry, here in South Africa.’ 021-418-0388