Hamethop’s embodies diverse realities through fashion and design, allowing those who engage with it to reflect on how they can define themselves. This is according to the Hamethop website. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Hamethop is a fashion and accessories brand that explores ideas of contemporary art, time, architecture, and place with stylish adornments. Their statement bags and garments hold stories that extend far beyond exterior beauty.
“For me, designing was a way to rebel against a system that I felt was damaging and I wanted to create a brand to celebrate my people and culture and the skill set that I saw around me,” says Tsakani Mashaba, founder of Hamethop.
We asked Tsakani to share some of the thinking and reflections behind the brand.
How did your journey lead you to create Hamethop?
I used to be a creative director for an agency that managed one of the biggest fast-moving consumer goods companies. At one point my team and I were asked to pitch and create a strategy to sell one million units in three months. The brand was not organic or healthy, it was junk food.
In the middle of a brainstorming session, I had an epiphany and realised that I didn’t want to be responsible for selling a million unhealthy products to African people. At that moment I decided that I wasn’t going to do it. So, I quit my job.
I knew that I wanted to be in the creative space and I needed to do be doing something holistic, nurturing, sustainable, and that brings honour. That led me to start Hamethop. For me, designing was a way to rebel against a system that I felt was damaging and I wanted to create a brand to celebrate my people and culture and the skill set that I saw around me.
Complete this sentence: At Hamethop, we believe fashion is a medium for…
interpretation, healing, and creative output that is centred around people. We work a lot with crafters and artisans and that allows me to have a sense of individuality and joy.
Hamethop is pushing the boundaries between art, architecture, fashion, and design. Why?
It’s easy for me to blur the lines between these disciplines because this is the world I exist in both mentally and physically. I enjoy design, art, and architecture and they don’t feel separated. I feel a sense of spirituality when I interact with these disciplines and the common thread that ties them together feels like home.
Collaboration is at the heart of Hamethop. How does this align with your vision and ethos?
When I collaborate with people who have different skill sets it enhances my vision. I believe I bring in more value when I work with others than when I do everything myself. These collaborations are also an opportunity to work across different, but related, creative industries and celebrate African craftsmanship which is important at Hamethop.
How can the stories behind our adornments help us shift into more caring, curious ways of viewing the world?
I view the world with the mindset that I belong in it. Once you identify yourself as someone who belongs in a certain space then that environment becomes your home and family.
In addition, it’s important to identify with the people and the spaces I’m inspired by. The Tiébélé Arc bag for instance is inspired by a small village of the same name in Burkina Faso. I often teleport myself to the spaces I’m drawn to whether or not I’ve been there physically and in that process I allow myself to respond from a spiritual and mental point of view.
Where does your design process begin?
My design process starts from an emotive or dream state that turns spiritual and finally transforms into the people aspect. I may design from a place of anger and I turn that feeling into something that I believe would be healing. It never stops with me, though, so the next step of the process is who can help me achieve the dream.
The people and collaboration element is always critical. I work with different creative teams and individuals with each collection based on what we need. Our SS22 Burkina collection, required architectural elements so we partnered with the architect Dirk Bahmann. This SS23 season, we worked with a writer named Linathi Makanda who assisted with bringing my vision and storytelling to life.
Why is preserving generational knowledge so important at Hamethop?
I’m drawn to handwork whether it’s beading, weaving, or the mastery of crafting leatherwork. As African people, we have so much generational knowledge that we haven’t industrialised. I don’t mean this in a way that encourages a fast pace, but rather one that creates more value in artisanal crafts and skills.
Right now it feels as if crafters don’t receive the respect they deserve for their work. At Hamethop, we appreciate these skills and recognise the people who use them. It’s important to highlight the different ways in which we create as designers from different parts of the world. Craftsmanship from Africa needs to be celebrated equally as craftsmanship from anywhere else in the world.
Our goal is to create opportunities for people who enjoy working with their hands to exist and be able to make a living.
How do you incorporate an ethos of sustainability into your work?
We work with what we have and part of that is finding innovative ways to use the available materials and resources around us. Our bag handles, for example, are crafted from recycled materials.
As African brands, I think we need to figure out an approach to make sure that the way we create has scalability. As much as the world appreciates slow production, sustainability, and recycling, the bottom line is how do we make sure that we are not left behind in terms of growth, capacity, and being at the forefront of these conversations? I feel that’s something we need to interrogate as an industry.
If you had the power to change one thing about the way we relate to our clothing, what would it be?
Firstly as much as its lovely to have brands that create trends, I would like to see a lot more people asserting themselves with what feels good to them and having the confidence to create an individual outlook of how they want to be seen or showcase their creativity – beyond passing trends. Individualism would allow for the business of fashion to be more liberated and less controlled.
Secondly, the marketing machine is geared toward toxic consumption and I hope that we can allow ourselves as people to slow down and consume at our own pace.
Can you share a few local brands you are loving, at the moment?