The Fashion District, Johannesburg CBD
The Fashion District in the east end of Johannesburg city, stretching from Troye Street to Goud Street along Pritchard and President Streets, must be one of the most underestimated shopping venues in Jozi. The re-furbished district houses more than 300 fashion-related micro-businesses, with seamstresses and tailors from across southern Africa and many small shops in cramped spaces overflowing with materials and clothes.
Here you can find the same high fashion as in the boutiques of Sandton and Rosebank, but the prices look altogether different – better, much better. Not only that, some of the shops, especially in men’s fashion, have such huge ranges of brand name products, you are spoiled for choice.
The fashion is a wonderful mix of Pan-African and western styles, and some top fashion designers like Clive Rundle and Bongiwe Walaza have taken up space. They are ably supported by the Johannesburg Sewing Centre, whose owner, Rees Mann, has been at the centre of the renewal of this part of Johannesburg. Rees buys sewing machines and other equipment in bulk, selling them to the informal manufacturers. It’s not unusual for him to order a million metres of ribbon. He has over 7000 styles of buttons and 500 thread colours at the biggest haberdashery shop in Johannesburg at 109 Pritchard Street. Next door at Studio 109, they actually claim that they stock all the Shweshwe designs currently in print!
He also started the SewAfrica Training Centre, a major force for helping new entrepreneurs learn the trade, using common resources for expensive capital equipment.
The heart of this area is Fashion Kapitoi, home to the offices of the Fashion District Institute, headed by Rees Mann and sports the first public outdoor fashion ramp. This is an inspiring project by the JDA, with 32 shops, one of which is the Fashion Shack, an outlet for locally made clothing and accessories, mostly in shweshwe (African) fabric, as well as a range of tongue-in-cheek T-shirts.
The Fashion Shack has opened a restaurant in the eclectic courtyard, dominated by a huge mural commissioned by Zimbabwean artists. It is run by Jonathan Jorge and Emma Whittle, who have given their own interpretation to local cuisine with favourites like chicken and chakanaise (a mix of chakalaka and mayonnaise) half moon, inkukhu (chicken) burger and chips, or Shacky’s Kota (a version of a bunny chow). Every Saturday, there is a market here, from 9h00 to 14h00 and live music from 11h00.
New lighting and new paving links the Fashion District with the nearby High Court Precinct, running from Von Brandis Street, along President and Pritchard streets, and linking to Polly Street in the Fashion District. Trees have been planted in President and Pritchard streets. Walk along Pritchard Street to Goud Street and back again along President Street to get the best out of your trip. It is quite safe, with parking in the street or one of the parking lots.
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