They’re cornering local market on cool
Woodstock space where creations are clothed in urban edginess
SAVVY brand- building has merged with loose-limbed street culture at Woodstock’s corner store – an airy, light-filled and deceptively unassuming location on the city’s young urban scene.
The enterprise – in part a nostalgic nod to the corner shop hangout, that quintessential node of social exchange in most older cityfringe suburbs – is a nexus of homegrown streetwear design and manufacture and the global urbanism of cool and connectedness.
The bustle and edginess of its local geography is inseparable from the energy and influences of a social media cosmos – the digital street – that collapses boundaries and aggregates the impulses of the like-minded from the minute they get up in the morning.
Luke Doman and Kalo Canterbury are the face of corner store, for whom what they wear and how they talk about it expresses a complex identity that has as much to do with their home-town world, local histories of corner café video games, electronic music and skateboarding, or indeed the long, now embattled, textile industrialism of Woodstock and Salt River, as the worldliness of street style in Seoul, Manhattan or Tokyo.
The venture at 103 Sir Lowry Road – it’s on the corner with Lewin Street – is an unlikely seeming trajectory for a pair whose university education spans philosophy and English (Doman) and environmental and geographical sciences, and film and media (Canterbury).
But, then, reinvention – overturning orthodoxies and testing conventions, or, indeed, reviving on a micro-scale the textile crafts which, at an industry level, have been hammered by cut- price importation – is part and parcel of the street scene and a scale of values which emphasise youthful independence, a touch of irreverence, a willingness to be different or distinctive and to relish these things without having to offer high-minded justifications.
And, in the case of corner shop, the embodiment of this exuberant spirit is the combined creative efforts of three brands, 2BOP (a stylised form of “two bob”, the second – older, imperial – word pronounced with a distinctive Afrikanerised elongation as “borp”), Young and Lazy and SolSol Menswear, which are acknowledged as South Africa’s leading streetwear brands and are evidently poised for significant international brand collaborations.
Each of them has a history whose details reflect elements of the street culture.
2BOP draws its inspiration from the video game culture of cafes, the name a play on the 20c kids would pay to play. It was founded a decade ago by Anthony Smith and Bradley Abrahams, men now in their forties whom Doman calls “OGs… original gangsters”, designers who “made it seem possible to do a street brand in South Africa”. The pair started out selling clothes from the boot of
The last, Sol-Sol Menswear, is driven by Durbanite Mathew Kieser (he and his wife have since moved to the Cape) and was inspired by a street-style blog set up by his brother Jared in Seoul, Korea.
Canterbury notes that Kieser’s “well-constructed, minimal-style” range made the designer the first South Africa to be featured in Hypebeast magazine… “which is really big for anyone interested in street fashion”.
In just two years, Sol- Sol clothes are selling overseas, too – from Hong Kong to the US – and, Doman said, have reached a market in Cape Town that ranges from “young kids to older people”, skaters to young professionals.
Kieser, Petersen and Smith are co-directors of corner store.
Doman and Canterbury – both serve as operations and marketing managers at the store and social media managers at 2BOP, while, in addition, Doman is production assistant and marketing manager for Young and Lazy – came into the picture as youngsters with new ideas about putting the three brands on the online map in a bigger way, and turning the store into a streetwear flagship.
Having met at UCT – and bonded on the strength of a shared interest in street culture and the dress- consciousness that went with it – they both worked at the shop that used to occupy 103 Sir Lowry Road. Smith and Abrahams General Dealers and Outfitters was itself an earlier project of 2BOP’s founder Anthony Smith – today a co-director of corner store – and his 2BOP creative director Bradley Abrahams.
When the business changed and the space became available for a new venture, Canterbury and Doman were able to offer their social media and marketing skills to generate a buzz focused solely on 2BOP, Young and Lazy and SolSol. (Their merchandise had been on the rails at Smith and Abrahams, but with a range of other brands.)
There isn’t the pedestrian traffic typical of a Long or Loop street outlet, but Woodstock blends its old, edgy self with a hip element that comes with its regeneration, and new tenants, from art galleries and coffee shops to designer offices and ad agencies.
And corner store – showroom downstairs, warren of activity upstairs – combines the shop itself on the street level, deliberately modelled as a gallery space echoing, for instance, the Michael Stevenson gallery across the road, and the cut, make and trim workshop above, as well as studio spaces for a range of other “creatives”.
The store brands’ reputation has made them a first choice for rappers and other musicians who routinely put in orders for specially designed caps or other kit.
Doman points out that more than 80 percent of the clothing on sale is made upstairs, all fabrics are sourced locally, and printing and labelling are done in the neighbourhood. “With a lot of pieces, everything from the initial idea to actual production and marketing is done right here.”
The limited – collectable – runs add cachet to the clothes among those who covet an association with authentic street style rather than the mass-produced knock-offs of larger firms. There’s the added thrill for shoppers of walking in and having a chat with the designers themselves.
“That’s a big value-add,” Doman says. “People, kids especially, want to meet them and be like them.”
The identity aspect is a core value, Canterbury says.
“Getting dressed, putting together an outfit, expresses how you feel, or is a way of trying to emulate something. It makes you feel invincible. And you share that with others who follow the brands… it’s an association, you can have a conversation.
“And what’s beginning to happen is that where certain people are 2BOP or Young and Lazy or SolSol people… everybody who comes is a corner store person. We’re an original place, it’s got a story, it’s got influence.”
STREET CRED: Kalo Canterbury and Luke Doman are helping to put Woodstock’s corner store on the map.