What are the most popular clothing brands in South Africa?
After the first elections of independent South Africa, the fashion industry took advantage of this new canvas to apply its paint to the picture of a new South Africa. That same decade, Miss World and Elle Magazine fashion shows were held. Notably, the first brands to take off in South Africa were international brands that drove international fashion trends in the country. However, in 1997, Lucilla Booyzen started the SA Fashion Week which was the sprout of local brands. Today, fashion in the country is a blend of local and international fashion trends driven by local and international fashion brands.
Style in color always looks good when it has the tag of a well-known brand. It is not unusual to see celebrities walk out in a Gucci or a Louis Vuitton. That is part of the appeal. The big brands leverage the attention that personalities get in the media and entertainment industry to increase their popularity. Ayanda Thabethe, Casper Nyovest, Natasha Tahane, and the late Ricky Rick are just a few entertainers whose fashion choices make news on social media. Their look-good feel-good mood is something fashion enthusiasts tap into when they buy these big-name brands.
When Thomas Burberry founded ‘Burberry’ in 1856, he sold gear to local sportsmen of Basingstoke, England. A century and a half later, the brand competes with the likes of Gucci on the global stage as one of the most sought-after brands in the fashion industry. Perhaps the most notable individual in the recent history of Burberry is Christopher Bailey, who reigned at the fashion house as design director from 2001 to 2018. For about two decades, he laid the foundation that catapulted Burberry to a global stage. When he left Burberry, he was undoubtedly the most successful fashion designer of his generation, having won several trophies for Burberry and had a good income in the process.
The brand is famous for its outdoor wear. These include trench coats, footwear, and leather accessories. It also sells eyewear through Luxottica and cosmetics through Coty. Both of whom have licensed Burberry’s name brand. The fashion house was listed in an annual report by one of South Africa’s top resellers, Luxity, in the 5 most popular designer brands for 2020 and 2021. It has stores in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Motala.
Louis Vuitton Malletier, popularly known as Louis Vuitton was founded in France in 1854 by Louis Vuitton. In 2022, Louis Vuitton was the most popular luxury brand in South Africa. According to Luxity co-founder, Michael Zahariev, the luxury brand is so popular because of the high demand for LV shoes and the unisex appeal of their products. It is common to find leather products, ready-to-wear shoes, boots, luxury bags, jewelry, watches, sunglasses, and accessories in stores with the LV label. It has stores in Johannesburg and in Cape Town.
Lous Vuitton has been named one of the richest, most valuable fashion brands in the world severally over the past decade. It is a dominant fashion house among fashion giants. Their products go for premium prices. In South Africa, a pair of Louis Vuitton sneakers can go for as high as R 12 000.
The annual report by Luxity also listed Chanel as one of the 5 most popular designer brands in the country. It is a French luxury fashion house that was established in 1910 by Coco Chanel. She started with the vision to create clothing for women that were “freeing.” Before, women dressed in clothing that was less comfortable than men or less flexible for play. Chanel thus specializes in women’s ready-made clothes and accessories.
Since the death of Madam Chanel in 1971, the most notable builder of the brand has been Karl Lagerfield, who took over in 1983. During Lagerfield’s reign, new designs came out. These designs include the new quilted bags, buttons, pearls, and gold chains as well as the two-tone shoes.
Chanel has two South African stores, one in Cape Town and another in Sandton City, Johannesburg. However, these stores do not sell clothing. They only sell accessories including cosmetics and fragrances.
Among notable local brands is Truworths fashion. It is an online fashion retailer that is part of the Truworths International Ltd group. Its product lines include clothing, shoes, accessories for men, women, and children as well as homeware and cosmetics. Some of these products are sold under additional brand names like Office London and Loads of Living.
Maxhosa is a South African brand that has been making headlines. It was started by Laduma Nxokolo in 2010. The brand creates knitwear that is inspired by Khosa culture and tradition. The fashion house sells apparel for all sexes, accessories, and even home décor with its unique authentic style. Xhosa beadwork, symbolism, patterns, and colors play a big role in giving the brand’s products uniqueness.
Laduma was an internationally recognized award-winning designer before he founded Maxhosa. His name attracts invites for Maxhosa to global fashion platforms including the New York Fashion Week. Maxhosa is a fast-growing brand that promotes African culture and shares its unique styles with the international community through fashion.
Legit is a fashion brand that was started in 2006 by the South African company Retailability (PTY). Legit specializes in female wear including shoes, clothing, and fashion accessories which are all sold online.
Gucci, or Guccio Gucci, was founded in Italy in 1921 as a luggage company. It has since established itself as an iconic luxury brand among the top brands in the world. The foundations of modern-day Gucci were laid in the second half of the 20th century by Guccio Gucci’s eldest son, Aldo Gucci, and Aldo’s son after him, Paolo Gucci. It was during this period that the hallmarks of the brand were created including the distinct shiny lapels, fur-lined coats, and lean silhouettes. At the end of the last century, the Gucci family lost ownership of Gucci due to family issues. Nevertheless, the company still maintains its local and international popularity.
The fashion house sells handbags, ready-made footwear, fashion accessories, and home decoration. Coty Inc sells Gucci beauty perfumes under a Gucci name license. Gucci bags can go for as high as R23 000 while their shoes and clothing can go for R 10 000.
Rich Mnisi famously named his fashion house Rich Mnisi when he founded it in 2015. The designer won the Fashion International Young Designer of the Year Award for 2014 at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa. Under his stewardship, the fashion label makes creative designs that combine African and popular culture. He described his work and what inspires them when he said, “I love design and all creative forms, and fashion gives one the ability to provide others with tools to enhance their daily expressions and storytelling.” The brand mainly sells outwear on its online store.
Foschini Group, also known as TFG Limited, was founded in Parrow East, Western Cape, South Africa in 1924. In the last two decades, the retailer has made investments that increased its manufacturing capacity, thus strengthening its local and international business position. For instance, it acquired Phase Eight in 2015 and Whistles in 2016, both British apparel companies, to increase its presence in the British and European markets. The retailer sells clothes and shoes for men, women, and children in its stores. There are 3000 Foschini stores located in South African towns and cities.
Just like Rich Munisi, the Thebe Magugu brand is eponymous, named after its founder and CEO Thebe Magugu. Thebe’s remarkable talent for design won him the LVMH prize for 2019. He was the first African designer to do so. Through the designer’s vision and mission, the brand celebrates African culture by using designs that are rooted in African culture while still maintaining a contemporary appeal. “My mission has always been to show contemporary South Africa. I want to put an end to some rather easy stereotypes about Africa and about fashion from this continent,” Thebe Magugu stated.
Thebe Magugu label has not only made major waves locally, but it has also done so internationally. The brand has attracted the attention of the headline-making press with regular features of its collections on Vogue runways. On top of this, it has also amassed A-list fans like Rihanna after the CEO was awarded the LVMH Prize in 2019.
South Africa does not only home top global fashion brands but also provides a vast market for these brand’s luxury products. These brands are popular for their top-quality products, and the glitz & glamour associated with them. South Africa also homes big South African fashion houses. The respective South African fashion houses have been on the rise lately with creative and inspired designers in charge. Fashion houses like Thebe Magugu, Rich Mnisi, and Maxhosa and retailers like Truworths, Legit, and Foschini are the most popular local clothing brands in South Africa in 2023. International brands, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Burberry complete this list.