Together for tomorrow


10 South African youth fashion brands to support this Youth Day

by | Jun 7, 2022

South African youth have a long history of challenging the status quo. On 16 June 1976 – the date we now know as Youth Day – when the Apartheid government changed the primary medium of instruction in schools to Afrikaans, young people protested the decades-long oppressive system of ‘Bantu’ education. The law intended to make education inaccessible to the majority of South Africans to entrench systemic violence and exclusion. The tragic Soweto Uprising on June 16th 1976 saw hundreds of children killed and more injured.

Forty six years later we commemorate those who fought and died in the struggle against Apartheid. In tandem with this, we look to the youth advocating for change now. Whether it is challenging colonial legacies in our education system, advocating for climate justice, or fighting against systemic inequality, many young people seek to change our world for the better.

This holds true in the fashion industry. Many youth-owned brands and conscious fashionistas are championing a just and sustainable fashion future. They are fusing dynamic youth culture and diverse aesthetics with the need to produce and consume in harmony with people and the planet.

In celebrating the efforts that our youth have made, and continue to make, towards our shared future, we have compiled a list of our favourite South African sustainable youth-owned and run brands. These brands are all independent, small businesses that centre around sustainability, environmental consciousness and community.


Two young people dressed in green and white

Basics are essential to any wardrobe. You truly cannot create a cohesive outfit without them. Pedestrian is all about creating timeless, high-quality basics to complete any look. “I regard value above all else,” say founder Melissa Carollisen. “There’s something special about treasuring your clothes.”

Melissa has been making clothes since 2016, but only formally started Pedestrian in 2021. Although Melissa has never been trained in fashion design, she experiments with her designs to create truly unique pieces and elevated basics. “I’m always inspired by colour,” Melissa says. Striking and unusual colours make an item stand out. “I love taking a beautiful piece of fabric and translating that into a garment in a way that honours the textile,” she adds.

Hand holding a green and white checkered bag

Sheefah Sity was struggling as an independent makeup artist in late 2019 when she first came across the bags that would later inspire her brand. “When I saw the bag, I knew that I wanted it, but it was too expensive. So, I did what most people in my generation do, I made it myself,” Sheefah says.

She watched endless hours of YouTube tutorials to learn the craft, and after several mistakes and “near breakdowns”, she managed to turn the lockdown pastime into a business. As a self-taught artist, Sheefah explains that she is always learning.

Sheefah started thinking about fashion two years ago when she embarked on her journey with “The way I dress influences what I post and what I make,” Sheefah says. But her greatest inspiration is her mother who runs a small jewellery business and is a continuous source of motivation for Sheefah.

Purpose and Form

A blue and white crocheted hat on a model

“I have come to understand that fashion is so much more than just clothing; it is a way of crafting a narrative that is personal and profound. It is studying the past to create a better future,” says Jenna Rae Gore, founder of Purpose and Form. The brand started as a mood board and passion project and soon became an official business that launched in 2021.

Jenna has always had an affinity for fashion. At a young age, she would dress up her dolls or raid her mother’s closet. As an adult, Jenna explored different mediums of fashion, but she was drawn to crochet because she loved the uniqueness it offered. “Each piece is completely different,” says Jenna. Her favourite piece is a custom brown sweater vest.

Knowing who made your clothes, and knowing that what you own was not made in an exploitative manner is very important to Jenna. “By supporting small fashion brands, you’re changing the landscape of the industry and paving the way for a better future,” she says.


Two young people wearing brown tracksuits

“Fashion is about embracing your individuality,” says founder of Socioculture, Naeelah Jumat. Inspired by streetwear style, Naeelah aimed to create a brand for people who want to stand out. Playing with bolder colours and silhouettes, Socioculture breaks the norms of streetwear with its creative, unisex designs.

With both her mother and sister working in the fashion industry, Naeelah grew a love for fashion at a young age. She is constantly inspired by the fabrics she uses and the customers that support her. Her favourite piece is the blue tulle dress style in their sweat sets. “What’s better than making comfy look elegant! I’m all about comfort and oversized silhouettes,” she says.


A young woman wearing a purple top and head scarf

A Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards 2021 finalist in the Student Award Category, ZALI GRAI aims to celebrate women with their inclusive, diversity-focused range. Each piece is imbued with the story of culture, heritage and joy that is shared amongst those of the African continent.

The brand is made-to-order to limit waste and they also re-purpose waste in their non-clothing items. While most of the clothes are made by the designer Abigail Nyirenda, the brand sometimes outsources to retrenched garment workers as a way of supporting women in the industry. ZALI GRAI offers timeless staples made from plant-based materials.


Two young people dressed in black and white

As a young girl, Anita Hlazo did not see herself reflected in the grunge Tumblr posts she used as inspiration, which made her feel as though she had to assimilate western beauty standards. But, as she grew older, Anita found a renewed sense of pride in her culture and heritage. And so, Anita decided to create her own brand that not only diversifies the grunge aesthetic, but also draws on her cultural background. Afrogrunge offers an array of clothing within the grunge aesthetic that weaves her heritage into the iconic pieces the style is known for.

“I hope people are able to connect with what I do and find themselves in my work,” Anita says. She wants young people of colour and non-able bodied people to explore different styles and subcultures without feeling misrepresented.


A young woman wearing a knitted jersey

As the name suggests, Oddity is all about embracing the strange and unique qualities that make us stand out. Oddity started in 2019 as part of founder Jessica-Ann Shepherd’s final year project at the Cape Town College of Fashion Design. Through this project, Jessica-Ann wanted to explore the idea of fashion as a means of expression. And, this exploration continued as Jessica-Ann officially launched the brand after her studies.

Although she manages the business alongside other work, the joy of seeing others treasure the clothes she makes overrides the challenges of juggling multiple commitments. As part of their sustainability efforts, Oddity minimises waste by using offcuts in some of their pieces or weaving them into mats.


A young person wearing an orange jumpsuit

This creative project was started by Thenjiwe Nxumalo-Parsley last year. Jonga is an isiXhosa word which means to look. “It is about highlighting and making visible women in the late 90s, and early 2000s, in South African Black culture,” Thenjiwe says. “South African music culture is so strong; it is loud and present and a big inspiration to everything I do,” they add. In addition to their studies, Thenjiwe is a DJ which means that music – specifically South African music – is central to their work.

Thenjiwe has had an interest in clothes from a very young age. In more recent years, they have grown an interest in the politics of clothes and dressing. But their interest in making clothes began with mending clothes they bought from fast fashion retailers or second-hand. “Fast fashion is never suited to the diverse body sizes we have,” they add. Jonga’s clothing is made-to-order, which allows them to make clothing that perfectly suits each customer.


A young person wearing a green and pink suit

This nostalgic, streetwear brand creates comfortable, gender-neutral made-to-order clothing that keeps the environment in mind. Primarily using deadstock material and 100% cotton, each piece is unique, offering clothing that enhances your personality. U.Be.You offers structured garments following menswear silhouettes with bright colours, creating a range that defies gender norms.

Founder Ulfah Davids says her grandmother is her main source of inspiration. Being a fashion designer, Ulfah’s grandmother ignited her love of fashion and continues to be a force of inspiration today.

Meg Taljaard

Woman smiling by the sea

The eponymous brand is run and designed entirely by Meg Taljaard herself. Operating the business by herself, albeit with its own difficulties, gives Meg the ability to design with creative liberty as well as giving her brand complete transparency. The brand uses sustainable fabrics and minimises waste with her slow, considered process. Meg is inspired by minimalist, simple designs that provide timeless and interchangeable pieces that can last a lifetime.


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