Spring has sprung and for many it means a closet clean-out. When it comes to curating a conscious closet, underwear can be tricky. While your old drawers can be darned and mended, these items are seldom swapped, borrowed, thrifted or donated for obvious reasons. We found four South African brands that have got our BACK-sides covered sustainably, ethically and comfortably so that you can make a considered choice the next time you need to buy undies!
*Disclaimer: none of these undies are 100% sustainable nor do they claim to be, nudity offers that.
Taryn King was disappointed by the limited number of conscious, comfortable underwear choices in South Africa. So in 2017, she founded one. “I wanted to bring beautiful, everyday underwear to South African women that was comfortable, locally-made, and affordable,” says Taryn.
Takkleberry is a beautifully-crafted, hand-made panty studio based in Cape Town committed to running a socially responsible, eco-conscious business. Taryn sought to make beautiful underwear that would invoke feelings of control and empowerment in women. “Putting on something fabulous and beautiful that only you know about – to me it’s a real act of self love.”
Takkleberry’s underwear is made from a combination of locally-sourced soft scalloped lace, embossed lace, lightweight superfine mesh, and cotton. Taryn says the unfortunate part is that these materials, while locally sourced, are imported by her suppliers. “We are hoping with the shift in consumer behaviour and consciousness, this will change in the future.” All elastics, bra straps, brass rings, sliders and bows are however all made locally. With a ‘no-waste’ policy on all their fabrics and components, off cuts and end-of-roll are repurposed for other garments or stuffing for beds at dog shelters.
Another one of Takkleberry’s major commitments as a business is to provide a livelihood for women in the Cape Flats communities of Heideveld and Manenberg. “Our goal is to grow our business in order to support more women in this community: To provide more jobs, skills and livelihoods; and offer them an environment where they can get inspired, learn, grow, and build sustainable careers with us,” says Taryn.
Takkleberry feels strongly about ensuring their packaging is sustainable and void of single-use plastics. Each order is packaged in a handmade cotton and lace panty bag which Taryn says doubles up as a travel bag, jewellery pouch or potpourri holder.
- Cost: from R265.00
- Visit their website here
Port Elizabeth-based mother-daughter duo started Fleur Intimates when head designer Jadé Blume finished her masters in linguistics at the Nelson Mandela University in 2017 and decided to follow her dream to be a conscious creative. Like Taryn from Takkleberry the inspiration for Fleur Intimates bloomed out of Jadé’s frustration at the lack of affordable, vintage-inspired, durable, quality underwear in South Africa. “Most underwear that’s currently available at apparel franchises does not last long and is incredibly expensive. I noticed there was a gap for affordable, handmade intimates that paid attention to detail and contributed to the slow fashion movement.” And so Fleur was launched in July 2020.
To reduce waste, Fleur Intimates do not mass produce their products but rather work on a made-to-order model to avoid stock build-up and ultimately, waste. The ties on the bag are made from the leftover ribbon used in their packaging. “Each of our designs are size-inclusive and our customers are welcome to contact us if they want a specific size. We believe in making our garments to fit our bodies, not the other way around.”
Fleur Intimates use a variety of different, locally-sourced fabrics like satin, cotton and lace. Labels and packaging are sourced locally too. Each purchase comes in a bag made from left-over material and can be reused, recycled or upcycled. “We constantly strive to be more sustainable and try to influence our customers to do the same. One small step is all it takes.”
Cost: from R160.00
Visit their website here
After years of practicing yoga and learning that it is a way of life based on giving back to the earth, Mikayla Pietersen started to question her clothing choices. After searching for sustainable activewear but failing to find one, Mikayla decided to start her own together with her partner Evan Kloppers six months ago. “I loved the idea because I try to live a sustainable lifestyle and if I could fulfil a dream in an environmentally-friendly way I was all for it. We didn’t need to buy yards of fabric and mass produce clothing, all we needed was a couple metres to produce and photograph and sell online as a ‘make-to-order’.”
Surya Chandra (meaning “Sun and Moon” in Yogic Sanskrit) intimates and activewear is made from bamboo fabric sourced from South East Asia through a supplier in Cape Town. When asked about the highly contested use of bamboo, Mikayla acknowledges the controversial manufacturing process but says: “Just like other cellulose-based clothing, in the right conditions bamboo fibre is biodegradable in soil. When it has reached the end of its life, bamboo clothing/underwear can be composted and disposed of in an organic and environmentally-friendly manner.”
Mikayla started off with the bamboo bell-bottom yoga pants and realised she could use the offcuts to create an intimate range to eliminate waste. The smallest scraps are used to make hair scrunchies.
Surya Chundra uses non-toxic, non-thirsty dyes made in Cape Town. Bamboo fabric is characterised as having a non-thirsty wet process because it accepts organic and natural dyes more rapidly and thoroughly than cotton or viscose and rayon. Like Fleur Intimates, they operate on a make-to-order business model so all fabric is undyed until a customer places an order in the style and colour of their choice.
While there is still wide-spread debate around the fast-growing grass now pegged as the ‘eco-crop’ due to it’s contested manufacturing process which uses a large amount of chemicals, Mikayla says: “In South Africa we only have a few farmers in the beginning phases of growing bamboo. This brings a wide untapped market and the opportunities are endless and our poorer communities can hugely benefit from it for low cost housing. I hope this article enlightens a few and inspires more self-sustaining, circular economies so that we can get this going here in South Africa.”
- Cost: from R240.00
- Visit their website here
Cape Town-based Sexy Socks started as a funky sock retailer but has recently expanded its arsenal to include conscious, sustainable and ethically-made mens jocks. Founder and director of Sexy Socks, Dave Hutchison sources end-of-roll or offcut fabric destined for the landfill. This fabric is given to Sexy Socks’s team of women CMTs who cut, dye, knit and manufacture the jocks. Every pair of Sexy Jocks bought helps to create employment in factories that aim to uplift women.
Dave is transparent about the pitfalls of packaging and sourcing fibres. He says they are still navigating some of the challenges within the sustainable design model.
- Cost: from R199.00
- Visit their website here
- Feature Image: Takkleberry – Supplied
- Fleur Intimates: Supplied
- Surya Chandra: Beverley Anne Page @bevfairylove
- Sexy Socks (Jocks): Supplied