Through Thick and Thin

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Christo Va­len­tyn Images © HIS ap­parel

When dis­cussing ma­jor tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances and how they are chang­ing the world we live in, many mar­keters of­ten re­fer to this time as the “age of dis­rup­tion”. I’ve al­ways found it to be a strong, even harsh word, but there re­ally isn’t a bet­ter de­scrip­tor for the ever-chang­ing land­scape we as con­sumers face. In the In­ter­net age of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion and in­for­ma­tion over­load, the world – once a big, in­de­scrib­able mys­tery only un­der­stood through per­sonal ex­plo­ration – has be­come as small as one’s lo­cal neigh­bour­hood.

This in it­self has changed the man­ner and the fre­quency with which mar­keters reach and speak to us, and has changed the way we dis­cover and en­gage with brands and prod­ucts. The world of fash­ion, driven by our col­lec­tive fas­ci­na­tion with all things beau­ti­ful and our de­sire to al­ways look our best, has also been rad­i­cally im­pacted by this dis­rup­tive in­for­ma­tion age. Fash­ion re­tail in the tra­di­tional sense re­mains in de­cline, and whether it’s a high-end de­signer brand or your favourite cloth­ing store, shop­ping for cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories has be­come a 24/7/365 busi­ness – if you’re not on­line, you’re a non-en­tity.

One could ar­gue the neg­a­tive side of this new world, of course, but by and large I think it is pos­i­tive. The days of go­ing to spe­cific shop­ping cen­tres to shop at spe­cific stores for par­tic­u­lar brands are gone, and greater ac­cess to the things you want, when you want it, is ut­terly con­ve­nient and in many in­stances cost-ef­fec­tive.

Yet de­spite this mod­ern age, there has also been a resur­gence in en­joy­ing life at a slower pace, an ex­am­ple be­ing spend­ing week­ends at mar­kets. Many an as­pir­ing fash­ion de­signer has, in re­cent years, built up a large and loyal fol­low­ing by show­ing and sell­ing their creations at pop­u­lar life­style mar­kets all over our coun­try – think of The Neigh­bour­goods Mar­ket in Cape Town and Jo­han­nes­burg.

While seem­ingly con­tra­dic­tory con­cepts, the no­tion of an all-en­com­pass­ing on­line pres­ence and a phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion in a non-tra­di­tional, “slow” set­ting are su­perbly com­ple­men­tary. The In­ter­net and so­cial me­dia has made it pos­si­ble for smaller brands to cre­ate and es­tab­lish their own pres­ence in the same space as es­tab­lished brands. At the same time, mod­ern-day mar­kets give you a phys­i­cal pres­ence in a space where your con­sumers, who have evolved from the mall-era, are spend­ing their time. It’s a fab­u­lous com­bi­na­tion that ul­ti­mately makes small fash­ion busi­nesses more vi­able and the en­tire in­dus­try more com­pet­i­tive – and the fash­ion­able con­sumer is the ul­ti­mate win­ner.

One of my most re­cent finds in this space is Dur­ban-based HIS ap­parel. I first dis­cov­ered the brand through In­sta­gram, and was im­me­di­ately im­pressed with the high qual­ity, beau­ti­fully styled images that are posted reg­u­larly. Log­i­cally, my next step was to visit its web­site and I was again im­mensely im­pressed: It is a mod­ern, in­tu­itive de­sign show­cas­ing beau­ti­ful prod­ucts through beau­ti­fully styled images, com­plete with look-books and a shop­ping func­tion.

Yet HIS ap­parel is not a global brand and doesn’t have a re­tail space in the biggest shop­ping cen­tres. It does its busi­ness on­line, and has a weekly pres­ence at the Shong­weni Farm­ers & Craft Mar­ket at the Shong­weni Re­serve, a stone’s throw from Pine­town in Kwazulu-na­tal.

Even more in­spir­ing is that HIS ap­parel is a fam­ily-run busi­ness. Cre­ated by a mom, Deb­bie Car­rie, the early stages of the jour­ney were spent craft­ing the wardrobes of her two stylish sons. When her el­dest son, Stephen, came back empty-handed af­ter trawl­ing ev­ery pos­si­ble store look­ing for just the right items for his wed­ding, a son’s frus­tra­tion paired with a mom’s nim­ble hands. At the wed­ding, the groom and all his grooms­men were dressed head-to-toe in what would be­come the HIS ap­parel brand. It wasn’t long be­fore Deb­bie’s daugh­ter, Meg, was added to the mix and Dad was roped in to man­age the ad­min side of things.

Today, HIS ap­parel prides it­self on qual­ity fit and fin­ish. “We spent a year on our shirts alone,” ex­plains Deb­bie, “try­ing them on count­less body shapes and tweak­ing our pat­tern to en­sure the best fit all round. Our aim is to bring you gar­ments that are time­less and es­sen­tial for ev­ery man’s wardrobe. We’re also pas­sion­ate about work­ing with lo­cal in­dus­try, and we’re proud to say that all our gar­ments are lo­cally pro­duced.”

Apart from a wide se­lec­tion of beau­ti­ful shirts that can be dressed-up or down, HIS ap­parel also of­fers a se­lec­tion of T-shirts, as well as an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of ac­ces­sories com­pris­ing ties, bowties, and pocket squares. “Our love for con­nect­ing with peo­ple is the drive be­hind our brand,” Deb­bie says. “Our hope is that we will cre­ate pieces that would jour­ney with you, from en­gage­ments to job in­ter­views, from week­ends away to wed­dings. We want to be part of the big mo­ments as well as the small.”

For more info, visit his­ap­parel.co.za.

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