Durban’s farmers markets are a magnet for consumers and small businesses alike, boosting the informal economy in the sunny South African city.
Be it the cosy market at Umhlanga or the expansive variety market at Shongweni, the coastal city of Durban in South Africa seems to be the sunny hub for farmers markets and small business owners setting up impromptu trading venues.
Within minutes of arriving at the Umhlanga Farmers Market, it’s easy to see why it attracts a steady stream of shoppers, despite the cold, penetrating drizzle on a Durban morning. There’s a good selection of fresh produce and specialty foods, the vibe is lively and cheerful even sans music or entertainment, and traders offer friendly, personalized attention. It helps that the market is centrally located and in the open air, fringed on one side by coastal dune forest. A woman trading home-baked date muffins and peach tarts chats away as she holds down a tent flap until the wind fades long enough for her to tie it down, and her customers happily banter on until she’s able to serve them. Dogs drag their owners across the clearing to greet other dogs. And everything on display looks oven-fresh and appealing.
“There’s a great variety of food we wouldn’t normally get in supermarkets – like the special cheeses or the vegan cupcakes,” says the market’s owner Alexa McWilliams.
“These are traders who are working from home and have a talent.”
She took ownership of the market several years ago and maintains its “charismatic, informal feel” because she considers it an important platform for small businesses. She explains that the market is a success because of its regular traders. “We see some traders come and go because they expect to buy a Ferrari after one morning, but it’s the regular traders who have their regular customers. Consistency is the most important thing for a market”.
Kirsten Hughes, who trades fresh farm butter and specialty cheeses, relies almost entirely on markets for her income.
“Markets appeal to me because of the freedom – there’s a lot of work with sourcing the products but it’s not a nine-to-five job,” she says, while cutting a slab of a special artisanal wash-dried cheese. “I have regular customers, and they can’t get my products easily.” Her main trade is at Shongweni, with a significant proportion of it at Umhlanga.
The latter market’s newest trader, Houda Abiet, began to trade her homemade Mediterranean foods here only a few weeks back, as a marketing exercise. “It’s very interesting to see what people like and don’t like, and they’re inquisitive because they don’t know all my products. I always tell them – just taste, you don’t have to buy.”
McWilliams herself started her marinated olive business at this market. She says: “Markets worked better because it’s a niche product [I sell] – I make it by hand and I have a passion for it.” She grew her business over the years and now has a full-time shop, Olive-A-Twist in Ballito, but does not think she would have got to that level of sales if it were not for the markets.
“The markets will give beginners with a great idea a phenomenal platform,” she says.
“You get a diversity of people from all over, so it’s also a great testing ground. I would recommend it to anyone.”
Across the city, the Westville Farmers Market enjoys a steady flow of customers on Thursday mornings. Traders set up shop at the Jimmy Bellows Sports Field, alongside a protected riverine forest, with expansive trees shading their stalls. It’s a friendly space, and traders and shoppers are casually familiar with each other.
Here, there are only seven or eight stalls selling vegetables, eggs, home-baked cakes, honey and biltong. Clint Govender, owner of the market, trades organically-grown vegetables, eggs, and homemade biryani. It’s a family business, with his wife supplying the biryani, and the vegetables sourced from his uncle’s farm.
“Customers are looking here for the quality and the freshness, especially the eggs,” Govender says. “And we’re 40% cheaper than the shops.”
The market is about 20 years old, and several stallholders and shoppers refer to its “better days”, when there were many more traders and a wider variety of products.
Govender explains that over the years, many of the old stallholders passed away or relocated, and he hasn’t had success attracting new businesses.
“The traders don’t always understand that it takes time to build their clientele. Jaco, over there, has been here two years, but it took him maybe six months to build up his client base, and now it’s worth his while to come every week.”
Jaco Buyleveld sells plants and provides a blade-sharpening service. He keeps his business small by choice, operating only at the Westville and Umhlanga markets. Westville’s customers seem to be mainly pensioners dropping by in between their grandchildren’s school rounds, and Buyleveld speculates that this is because most of the younger residents are working outside of the area. He is not optimistic about the future of the market, saying, “Unless you get a younger customer base, the market is doomed.”
A few kilometers up the hill, also on Thursday mornings, the St. Agnes Fresh Produce Market is noticeably devoid of customers. It’s well-situated at a major intersection, with its stalls looking out onto the St. Agnes church’s gardens. There’s a better variety here than at Westville, but it feels like the traders are here for reasons other than hard cash.
Although he hasn’t made a sale yet today, John Phiri says that this market is worth his time for building a longer-term client base through orders. He trades leather products that he makes – caps, belts, wallets – here and at Umhlanga market as well as at Golden Hours, Bluff, and Durban’s craft/flea markets. Phiri’s income is mainly from these markets.
He says: “Since I started my business, I’m enjoying the markets – I do enjoy talking to the customers. For sales, I prefer Bluff and Golden Hours. Flea markets are best because we expect thousands of people and we sell well.”
Sidney Oerter is the only trader who reports good sales here today. He trades specialty cheeses he sources from around South Africa, with the occasional import. He started his business a few months ago, and although he supplies a few restaurants, his main customer base is at the markets – Litchi Orchard, I Heart, and the brand-new Drummond Farmers Market. He explains: “Markets are an easy way to get into sales. We want to expand the business, maybe offer monthly hampers, but the markets are our entry point.”
Georgina Erasmus, who trades honey, eggs, organic coffee, and Madagascan bags, at a number of different markets, says that she will normally trial a new market for six to eight weeks before deciding whether to come back, although she’s been coming to St. Agnes since it started a year ago despite poor trade because, “it gets me out of the house and we love the church, and we also like some of the people who come here”. Her main trade is at Shongweni and she says confidently: “If you’re not selling at Shongweni, then there’s something wrong with your product.”
The line of traffic winding along the hills west of Durban every Saturday morning is testament to the popularity of Shongweni Farmers Market. Its customer base is around 4,500 on regular weeks, swelling considerably during the holidays.
Owner Christine Standeaven believes that it’s the variety on offer that makes it worthwhile for people across the age and income range to make the trek across the city. There’s also food, crafts, entertainment, as well as areas for relaxing.
“People come here to find items that are unique, and they love supporting people who are making a living for themselves,” says Standeaven. “They might get things cheaper in the stores, but they’ll rather come to a crafter and take the time to look for a special gift.”
She explains that the market started as a space where local farmers could sell directly to the public, with a bit of breakfast food, but she incorporated crafts and expanded the food section after five years when she found that they weren’t increasing their customer base. The intake doubled at that point. Just over two years ago, the market moved to its current location, with Standeaven building undercover stalls for every trader and concrete walkways to keep feet mud-free when it rained.
As she speaks, it becomes obvious that the market is successful because of her high sensitivity to the needs of both her traders and customers.
She says: “I can walk 15 to 16 kilometers on a Saturday morning. I greet every single stallholder, I look at what people are bringing in, and I check everything.” For example, Standeaven makes sure that catering equipment is clean on arrival, food vendors are constantly washing their hands, and there is cold storage for meat products. She has a team of cleaners speedily picking up litter and cleaning up after children and dog accidents.
And on the product side, she keeps an eye on trends and fashions, so that she can make sure that there are traders who can cater for the full variety of customers.
Standeaven says that about two thirds of Shongweni’s stallholders rely only on markets for their income. “I watch what people are bringing out of the market, and I like to see them carrying bags because I know the stallholders are happy. I need to create the best platform for my stallholders to want to stay in the market, so that I have an amazing outing for the people who are coming to buy at the market. And I want it like that every week.”
The I Heart Market in central Durban is also proving to be a strong platform for small businesses. It’s an arts and crafts market at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on the first Saturday of each month.
The market itself is a success story, having begun with 12 stalls outside the St Mary’s Church Hall in Windermere in 2008, and growing rapidly to 120 or so traders at its current location.
Says owner Anna Savage: “We knew a lot of creative people who were doing really interesting work – ceramicists, fashion designers, jewelry designers – but they didn’t have anywhere to sell. So the idea was to put together a market where for a small fee you could set up a mini shop, and start to build your customer base.”
Savage curates the market strictly: “It’s about maintaining a standard of quality of product, and also a particular type of aesthetic. We accept only locally-produced products, but we also wanted products that are exceptional – things that are dynamic and interesting, that are ahead of the trends, but also that are viable, with appeal for a larger public and in the right price range.”
The market’s customer base is about 4,500, and collective sales for all traders average R460,000 ($32,500) at each market.
For about a quarter of the traders, sales at I Heart account for over 60% of their monthly income.
Duduzile Ngubane, a resident trader, says that it was through I Heart and other markets that she was able to grow her fashion business, which started as a hobby. Although she has a full-time shop, markets still account for about 40% of her income. Her line of fashionwear, Du Confidence, is made for “women who are confident”, as she says proudly. The range is casual and formal plus-size modernwear.
She explains: “I am bold, bright, feminine, and I’m a warm woman, so the work I do is mostly in bright colors. It’s a confident woman who can wear bright colors.”
Just recently, demand has grown enough for her to be able to focus on her business full-time.
Says Savage: “I do really think that by providing this platform, the market inspired people who wanted to do something different from their day jobs. It’s providing a place for small businesses to launch, and it makes me really excited when I see people doing well.”
– Rehana Dada
Conscious Fashion: ‘So Much More You Can Do With Discarded Clothes’
Fashion is about creating beauty, but its ugly side is the carbon emissions. Designers are now looking to play it safe, even if it means going to dangerous lengths for the sake of greener fashion.
In South Africa, the fashion industry is now starting to do its bit to negate the effects of climate change, with some designers going green, in interesting, creative and even lucrative ways.
Ayanda Nhlapo, a stylist and entrepreneur, is one of them.
She hosted and co-produced her own TV fashion show, Ayanda’s Fashion House, where she explored the work of some of South Africa’s most prolific designers and creatives in the fashion industry. The fashion aesthete says the influence of the industry is far-reaching, and therefore, must be more responsible about the environment and preservation of resources.
“I’ve always had a knack for creating, whether I’m creating from scratch or recreating something that already exists,” says Nhlapo. So, upcycling, or repurposing, is what she is into.
“However, recreating or upcycling has always given me much more excitement and a deeper sense of purpose.
“Upcycling can be challenging but rewarding in the sense that it’s not just about the creativity but it’s more so about contributing to solving the effects of fast fashion on the environment and the economy. It is very important that we preserve our culture, identity and resources,” she says.
Fascinated about culture as well as traditional wear, some of her design ideas are fairly unconventional, such as Zulu sandals made of tyres. Besides clothes, she also designs accessories, such as earrings and key-holders. One of her designs is earrings shaped like water droplets to highlight the importance of saving water, whilst also bringing forth the beauty and importance of recycling and upcycling.
Her market is largely young women, but the brand is also for those who love and consume fashion consciously. Nhlapo uses fashion as a tool to influence people and encourage them to think carefully about how they use it.
“Fortunately, through traditional media and social media, I am able to reach thousands and thousands of people, not just in South Africa but across the world. If we consume fashion correctly and consciously, we have the power to reverse certain cycles and change the direction of our future,” says Nhlapo.
She goes on to say that the fashion industry is among the highest polluters in the world, however, thankfully, it is gradually moving towards a more responsible way of operating.
“In fact, green fashion is the next big thing. Designers and consumers are finally becoming more and more aware of the damages and negative, rippling effects of fashion and are now beginning to take such issues seriously. We are starting to see more sustainable fabrics on the runway and more eco-friendly brands launching into the market, while well-established brands are also moving in the direction of going green. Before we know it, green fashion will be the only thing we know.”
South African designer JJ Schoeman elaborates on ‘fast fashion’ and ‘green fashion’.
“I think we need to still go on a robust campaign on the implications of fast fashion, where we create more awareness around its consumption, as I feel that most consumers are still a little blasé about their purchase.
“There was a call for green fashion, because of the wasteful nature of production lines within our industry. This call was made to encourage designers like myself to use environmentally-friendly fabrics and methods in the production line.”
One of the ways he implements this in his production line is to cut material in a way there is less wastage.
“Over and above this, I also found ways in which to ‘get rid’ of the waste we accumulated over a season – these included donating to the trade, for reuse. I also try my absolute best to use fabrics that are more environment-friendly, but of course, I always need to take into consideration what the client wants.”
Schoeman opines the green fashion trend is growing.
“Absolutely, if we just take into consideration the amount of international names that have agreed to not using real fur in their collections. Recently, I read about the #G7Biarritz movement, which saw the Prada Group, Ralph Lauren and 30 other fashion industry brands sign the pact. The Fashion Pact is going to change the game in sustainable fashion all over the world.”
Yet another trend is ‘thrifting fashion’ that has become the cornerstone of shopping trends popular among the youth.
Vathiswa Yiba is an employee at a vintage thrift store in the lively Braamfontein area of Johannesburg. She has immersed herself in the culture of thrifting.
The store is one of several thrift stores in the city, and among the popular ones at the thrift market not far from Africa’s largest railway station, the Johannesburg Park Station.
“Thrifting is buying clothes that people think are not good enough anymore and those that they have discarded,” says 22-year-old Yiba.
“It’s interesting with thrifting because the most dangerous places are where you find the nicer things”– Vathiswa Yiba
The lower prices also offer financial reprieve and more options for the buyer.
Yiba has been thrifting since her high school days when she started with her own clothes.
“I don’t step into retail stores unless I am buying shoes,” she says.
“My first thrift was buying from people who sold from their bags, then from their car boots, then I leveled up and started going to the biggest market in the Johannesburg Central Business District; MTN Taxi Rank, known for its pavement crimes, despite the danger in that part of town, they have the best clothes.”
The street-savvy Yiba offers advice to those who are novices in the industry.
“It’s interesting with thrifting because the most dangerous places are where you find the nicer things, and here is a tip when you are going thrifting – make sure you have loose change and put it in safe pockets, away from pick-pocketers. That way you will be able to shop safely. However, you can find good-looking items but it’s not in your size; which is where the community comes in.
“We have tailors to alter the garments for you and it will be exclusive because it’s thrifted, no one has the same clothes. There is so much more you can do with discarded clothes. With the littlest things, you can make an amazing thing and you’ll be the only one who has it.”
Of course, there is a tinge of stigma associated with thrifting. Yiba says people think the clothes could also have belonged to those who have passed away, but she’s of the view that thrifting creates other opportunities.
“The [thrift clothing] may look messy and seem dusty, but once cleaned or altered, they will look retail. So it’s not just the connotations, it can be something perfect and the next person wouldn’t even know.”
These are sentiments also echoed by Leago Nhlapo, a content creator for fashion brands like Adidas, Sportscene and Skechers, who began his journey as thrifter.
“It started with thrifting because it makes you unique; there is no similar garment, every single garment is different from the next. So, I jumped from really cheap clothes [recycled clothes] to really expensive clothes,” he says.
However, Leago encourages green fashion because he says the fast fashion industry is the second-highest contributor to carbon emissions.
“The more people buy clothes, the more we contribute to global warming and we all know the global crisis, so if we recycle clothes, there will not be a need to make clothes, there are enough clothes for everyone existing. I am proof that second-hand clothes are cool and look better than people paying tons of cash.”
Seventy kilometers south of Johannesburg’s Central Business District is Nokwakha Qobo, who was born in the squatter camps of Phuma Zibethane in Sharpeville. And in the garbage dumps of these camps, the fashion designer in her emerged.
Qobo currently has a clothing line with an international reach. She fashions garments out of wastepaper she collects from rubbish dumps.
“I’m a self-taught designer from a dump in Vanderbijlpark, that’s where I learned everything– Nokwakha Qobo
As a young girl, Qobo had to walk to school, and through the course of her journey home, she would pass a garbage site where old fashion magazines and newspapers were discarded.
It is often said that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. This adage was not lost on her because she took inspiration from the articles in those magazines and now creates pieces that are sought after.
“That’s where I learned about fashion trends, that’s where I learned about different colors for different seasons, that’s where I learned about the body structure of a woman, actually, I’m a self-taught designer from a dump in Vanderbijlpark, that’s where I learned everything,” she says.
Inadvertently, she too is contributing towards a shift in culture based on conscious consumption.
Perhaps, with the benefit of time, green fashion will be the norm as many believe we already have all we need.
– Motlabana Monnakgotla
HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E
Brought to you by Hugo Boss
HUGO BOSS and Porsche have partnered to bring an action-packed racing experience to the streets of the world’s major cities through Formula E.
Formula E is known for its fascinating races globally. The partnership will have a strong focus on the future of motorsport. In doing so the races will host a unique series for the development of electric vehicle technology, refining the design, functionality and sustainability of electric cars while creating an exciting global entertainment brand.
HUGO BOSS which boasts a long tradition of motorsports sponsorship – has been successfully engaged in the electric-powered racing series since the end of 2017.
In this collaboration, HUGO BOSS brings its 35 years of experience and expertise in the motorsport arena to Formula E, as well as the dynamic style the fashion brand is renowned for.
Mark Langer HUGO BOSS, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says that though they have been working successfully with motorsports over the years, he is exceptionally pleased that as a fashion brand they are taking the cooperation to new heights.
“As a fashion brand, we are always looking at innovative approaches to design and sustainability. When we first encountered Formula E, we immediately saw its potential and we are pleased to be the first apparel partner to support this exciting new motorsport series,” he says.
The fashion group is also the official outfitter to the entire Porsche motorsports team worldwide.
The fascination with perfect design and innovation, along with the Porshe and Hugo Boss shared passion for racing, inspired Hugo Boss to produce the Porsche x Boss capsule collection.
Its standout features include premium leather and wool materials presented in the Porsche and HUGO BOSS colors of silver, black and red.
Since March, a range of menswear styles from the debut capsule collection is available online and at selected BOSS stores. In South Africa the first pieces of the capsule will come as a part of the FW 19 collection.
Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Formula E says he is confident that the racers will put their best foot forward on the racecourse.
“This new partnership will see the team on the ground at each race dressed with a winning mindset and ready to deliver a spectacular event in cities across the world. As the first Official Apparel Partner of the series, we look forward to seeing the dynamic style and innovation on show that BOSS is renowned for,” says Agag.
Oliver Blume CEO of Porsche AG says Formula E is an exceptionally attractive racing series for motorsport vehicles to develop.
“It offers us the perfect environment to strategically evolve our vehicles in terms of efficiency and sustainability. We’re looking forward to being on board in the 2019/2020 season. In this context, the renowned fashion group HUGO BOSS represents the perfect partner to outfit our team.”
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