How have you continued to interpret the founding principles behind Naked Ape’s into each collection over the years? It is very challenging indeed. The market is super saturated with plastic in many fashion fabric forms; finding natural is extremely costly and one has to search far and wide. We live in a market that has very little to offer when it comes to fabric varieties and most of what is around, is imported. A weakening currency has had a massive impact on the cost of these imports. This being said, we are creative and we are able to adapt. “Manipulation” is a tool often used by our design team; this is what we have to do to our fabrics to stay unique in a constantly changing market.
What are some of the thoughts that go into putting together a new collection? Identity is everything. A brand with strong identity, strong roots and a solid creative foundation can only go from strength to strength. This would be the basis of any collection present and future. Inspiration needs the support of this identity; from here on the process is fluid.
How has the style and aesthetics of Naked Ape evolved over the years and how has that been reflected in your work? We keep on refining; we keep on adapting as the seasons come and go. Our brand ID (our strength) resonates in all our processes from inception to execution. One cannot be complacent in a fast changing world where consumer needs transform continuously. This inspires us to maintain our trendsetting philosophy: To lead rather than to follow.
How do you navigate designing for a new customer and for the brand loyalist? Understanding our client and his fashion needs is imperative. This is after all, all about the client and we are there to guide and provide within our ID parameters.
Where do you source materials and how do you manufacture your designs? Our mandate is to source locally before anywhere else. The continent offers hand woven textiles that work for certain garments only. We often source from local fabric wholesalers and retailers who import fabrics from various parts of the EU and Asia. Our designs are currently manufactured at our studio in Johannesburg.
How do you as a brand work towards bringing in customers outside of the South African market? Our retail store has been a fantastic platform in exposing our brand to internationals visiting SA. We have also had the opportunity to showcase in various parts of the continent, the EU and America. We have also been lucky enough to dress a few international feature films. Together with social media and a comprehensive website we are able to expose ourselves to a broader international market.
What does luxury mean to you as a design house? Luxury is commonly used in modern time and is often associated with high price tags. Luxury is desirable and difficult to obtain. Luxury to us is our understanding of purpose: we craft with “Love and Respect”. This is an understanding that transcends all processes of our garment making. Our approach to any piece of fabric is that of appreciation and care.
How do you sustain yourself as a business in an economic climate like South Africa? This would be one of the most difficult questions to answer without sounding negative. The reality is as follows: We are an established brand. We have a strong identity. We are known for our fit, quality and fine fabrication. We are ready to expand. We encourage investors in the fashion industry, government entities and carers of SA to invest in us and other local established brands. We are pioneering despite all the challenges and we can only make this work if we adapt to collaborate. We grow together, not as individuals but as groups and eventually as a country. Financial backing is imperative.