After two successful Cape Town-based pop ups (and many requests for a Johannesburg-based one), THEM or The Ethical Market will open on Thursday evening at the Bamboo centre in Johannesburg. This pop up shop focusses on local and ethical fashion, accessories and homeware brands. (See list of brands below.) Curator, Emma Longden tells us more:

How do you select participating brands? I’ve got to know quite a few small, local designers in the industry over the years. We invite them to explain what makes them an ethical brand. Each brand does a write up which is presented at the pop up so that consumers can see the story behind the brand. Despite the obvious, one of our criteria with clothing is NO polyester. Polyester microfibres released in the wash process are a massive source of water pollution. We look for brands that use linen, cotton, rayon, hemp, any natural fibres. We also curate the market so that brands “work” together so that the final look works.

What is the most important criterion for the ethical market? That it is all locally made. Because of unions and a strong bargaining council in South Africa most of what is produced here is ethical, as opposed to countries with large apparel industries (such as those in some Asian countries), that have very low minimum wages and little protection for factory workers. Most of our brands at THEM support home industries and smaller factories and know the people who make their products personally. Some of the designers are the crafters themselves.

How many THEM pop ups have you done? We had our first ethical market at Bello studios at The Old Biscuit Mill before Christmas last year, then another six-week long one at the same venue earlier this year which was a great success. It was so good to see the response from people who came specifically because they wanted to change their shopping habits and buy ethically made goods.

Have you found that over time more brands are suitable for the market? Yes, there are so many small exciting new brands that have an ethical and sustainable ethos, and older brands that are becoming more aware of their approach and changing accordingly.

What are the main challenges in South Africa for ethical and sustainable brands? Our biggest challenge is access to fabrics and materials that are sustainable. For my own brand (Sitting Pretty), I have found it impossible to use organic cotton for example. It is available but the price point is so unbelievable high that the end product would be unattainable for my customer base. Using anything cutting edge is difficult, as most of the time it means importing it on your own and the costs are just too high.

What can I expect that I won’t find anywhere else? Most of the brands are Cape Town-based and don’t often come up to Johannesburg, so it will be new to most people. I’m also very excited to have Asha Eleven by Olivia Kennaway, previously Lalesso.

Will the collections be on trend for Spring/Summer 2019?  Yes. Most of the designers will be showcasing their new SS19 collections. However many of the brands involved prefer to design products that are not too ‘trendy’ and are rather made to last, embracing the slow fashion movement and a ‘less is more’ approach.

What is the price range of the items on the market? There are such a wide variety of goods, prices may range from R100 – R3000.

Images:  Main one: Asha Eleven, then in order from top: Asha Eleven, Threads that Bind Us, Bena Loungewear, Matsidiso.