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    Boutique Fashion News — Thula Sindi

    Look of the Day: Colourful Charm

    l-19Today we’ve gone for a look that combines a skirt with a colourful brush-stroke effect print with a neutral unfussy black top, achieving a stylish look that will just as good in the office as out on the town. The blue accessories add an element of charm that sets off the print of the skirt.

    Get the look from

    • ‘Paperbag’ waist pencil skirt with back slit, from South African designer Thula Sindi
    • Stacked recycled paper beaded necklace from Ugandan social enterprise Nakate Project
    • Recycled brass and glass ring, made in Kenya for Made
    • Matching bag and shoes from Prada and Manolo Blahnik, top from Topshop

    Thula Sindi Shows at Labo Ethnik Fashion Event in Paris

    Thula-Sindi-for-Labo-Ethnik-Fashion-Weekend-June-2013-BellaNaija006Last month rising star fashion designer Thula Sindi (who’s fast becoming a household name in his native South Africa) showcased his latest collection at the 7th annual Labo Ethnik event in Paris.

    Labo Ethnik has grown every year, attracting over 30,000 visitors since launching in 2007, and bringing together an impressive lineup of the best emerging fashion labels from around the world. The event, which also includes a trade exhibition, gives labels an opportunity to present to the industry and the public in Paris, and many relish the opportunity.

    Thula Sindi’s showcase combined day and evening wear; it was clean-cut and elegant, with the splashes of colour and shimmer  in the occasion wear pieces perfectly offsetting the monochrome looks that are perfect for work. Thula’s design aesthetic is definitely suited to the urban woman who loves to look stylish, whatever the occasion. is thrilled to stock Thula Sindi, especially as he gains more attention internationally.


    Shop Thula Sindi at here and check out some of the runway looks that graced Labo Ethnik.

    Photo credits: Bellanaija, Pagnifik


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    The Sapellé Summer Lookbook is Out!

    Big smiles all round the Sapellé team as we unveil our sizzling hot Summer Lookbook.

    We’ve really gone to town this time in sourcing some of the best of contemporary African fashion out there – everyday style that’s fit for you the modern woman. We’re proud to present looks from new designers coming on board this season and current season styles from our existing partners.

    We’ve brought together styles for play, work and party. From subtle pieces with just a hint of African influence (check out Thula Sindi’s range, which has been designed with the ‘City girl’ in mind, and Tamboo Bamboo which uses jersey and linen with just a touch of print here and there) to bold statement pieces that marry African tribal print with stylish silhouettes such as KikoRomeo, Tina Lobondi and Kutowa Designs. We’ve got lots and lots in-between as well – all gorgeous, original and of course ethical. So you’ll not only look fantastic, but you’ll be doing good too.

    Throughout the season we’ll be featuring our designer partners, giving you a little more insight into why we’re inspired by them, what they do and how they do it – so watch this space!

    Our new Summer range will bring some sunshine to your wardrobe this Summer, whatever your signature style. See the Lookbook here.

    Afromania african print wrap top

    Afromania African tribal print peplum top

    Afromania peplum belt African tribal print turquoise

    Afromania African print peplum belt

    kampala fair african print dress

    Kampala Fair African Print Dress

    kikoromeo peocock african print dress

    KikoRomeo Peacock African Print Dress

    tina lobondi geometric tribal print skirt

    Tina Lobondi geometric African tribal print skirt

    vanessa augris african print jacket

    Vanessa Augris African print jacket

    Of African Mamas, Itchy Hemp and Other Clichés

    I’m buzzing with excitement as we finalise our upcoming Summer range coming out just in time for Sapellé’s first pop-up appearance in London from 16 to 28 April.

    There’s lots of discussion with the team, deciding pieces that’ll work well together and showcasing the range and depth that our shoppers expect. And also introducing one or two things that might pleasantly surprise and help break some clichés.


    Burberry’s African-print inspired collection last year raised some considerable debate about how ‘African’ it’s production was (or wasn’t), but the publicity did help shine a positive light on the use of print for contemporary design.

    When I talk about breaking clichés, here’s where I’m coming from. A typical conversation I have when introducing Sapellé goes like this:

    Me: “We sell contemporary African-inspired fashion created by a selection of Africa’s top design labels and crafters”.

    Other person: “Oh, wow, that’s great! I happen to know someone from [Insert name of African country here], she loves African fashion. I’ll let her know about you.”




    Whereupon I launch into an explanation that our products aren’t just for Africans, that we’ve had delighted customers from  all backgrounds, that they’re modern, appealing and perfectly suited to the modern woman. Etc, etc, etc.

    Usually when I show them pictures of our products, it helps bring home the point that we’re just adding another dimension to the typical high street range of styles without going off on a completely different style tangent.


    One of our newly-signed labels, Taibo Bacar’s latest collection has global appeal


    Taibo Bacar showing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

















    So therein lies one challenge. Blowing the cliché that African fashion is the attire of  ‘African Mamas’; that it’s all about elaborate turbans in clashing colours, and flowing boubou gowns, stiff with embroidery.  Of course traditional African fashion is as glorious as all this. But that’s certainly not all there is to it.

    As we know, there’s a growing movement of talented designers taking African inspirations, fusing them with diverse global style influences, creating looks that fit effortlessly into any modern setting. It comes in all forms: from the printed, the woven, the intricately embellished, the hand-dyed and even the plain. Yes, African-influenced fashion can also be elegantly and simply understated.


    Thula Sindi, who’s joining our group of designers sets off the flattering shapes of his garments sometimes with plain fabrics

    Sadly, I’ve heard stories from African designers who’ve felt the weight of expectation to produce collections that fall under one fixed ‘tribal print’ umbrella, who have then faced apathy from press and public when they didn’t deliver to those expectations.

    Could it be that while the fashion runways have helped to bring the African fashion banner to the mainstream, their representations haven’t ventured from the narrow animal print and ‘tribal print’ interpretation? If so, this is the perfect opportunity for the emerging African designers to broaden the public’s view and showcase the breadth of range they have. Let’s not forget also that they themselves are drawing their own influences from the wider world too, which is what makes it all so exciting.


    Moschino’s latest Cheap & Chic line is playfully tropical and the African print connection is strong.

    There’s a saying that the best way to break clichés is to live the truth. One of the exciting things about our upcoming Summer 2013 range is that we’re introducing some beautiful ‘atypical’ pieces that help chip away at the clichés about African fashion. These pieces go beautifully well with the rest of our more ‘typically modern African’ range, including the gorgeously vibrant prints we love. All of which we hope will appeal to customers seeking complementary printed pieces for their wardrobes, or simply something more subtle.


    One of our listed designers, Nkwo (via Afromania) uses an adventurous design process that creates beautiful, unforgettable pieces.

    So that’s the African fashion cliché challenge in a nutshell. Then there are the perceptions around Sapellé as an ethical fashion retailer. Here we also have the challenge of dispelling the ‘itchy hemp’ clichés that built up around ethical fashion ages ago, which still prevail despite the huge strides we’ve seen in the sector. There are many different ethical products being produced globally – they feel great, they look fantastic and most of the time, they’re miles better than their ‘unethical’ counterparts.

    As for the role we’re playing to trade only with ethical suppliers, we relish the relationships we’ve built with our partners because of the tangible impact of every order we place with them. When we do this, we’re supporting the fair employment of  machinists, metalsmiths, women’s groups, supporting recycling and responsible production, respecting the environment, and creating sustainable income. It’s a really, really good feeling.

    London Fashion Week 2011 - Fashions Finest at the Westbury Hotel

    Uganda’s Jose Hendo (who will soon be joining Sapellé) switches with ease between classic and avant garde. Her current collection in shades of cream uses organic cotton grown in her home country.

    But the thing we ethical fashion retailers must remember is never to push the ethical agenda down shopper’s throats as if that alone should justify the purchase. So our focus is on sourcing the high quality, irresistible pieces that stand up on their own merit. We hope that the added bonus that they’re ethically-sourced is a great story that’ll make customers even happier with their purchase.



    French label Tamboo Bamboo (also joining Sapellé with their Summer collection) European with bold Afro-Caribbean tones. The result: a unique, fun look that works across cultures.




    Elle South Africa’s ‘Jozi Maboneng’ Feature Takes Us Back To MBFW SA

    Sapellé was there at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week South Africa in Johannesburg in October 2012, and we had the privilege of seeing the amazing talent that’s rising up around Africa. Designers from around the continent showcased a range of stunning looks with flair. From resort casual, to sport-luxe to the classically glamorous, and all with a touch of the exotic, whether it be in the use of colour, texture, print or silhouette. It was beautiful and enlightening and hugely inspiring.

    From afar, it’s hard to get a sense of the sheer energy and buzz that’s around the African fashion industry, but this event brought it all together.

    Elle South Africa was there (of course), and we think they were just as captivated as we were by it, because in their January issue they’ve brought together a number of those designers for a shoot with their Fashion Director Poppy Evans (whom we also had a chance to meet in Jo’burg) entitled ‘Jozi Maboneng’. It’s shot in a marketplace in Johannesburg’s famous Soweto township – a perfect setting in our view because it’s vibrant, it’s gritty, and it’s unapologetically bold.

    Here are a few of the candid shots taken during the shoot.

    Taibo Bacar’s paisley print dress was part of a range of glamorous feminine pieces. Bacar went on to win the Best Designer Award at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.

    Ituen Basi’s playful print pants teamed up with her signature mix-and-clash jacket to create a steaming hot look

    Marriane Fassler, a veteran on the South African fashion scene who’s known for her love of texture shows she’s still got the flair with this tulle and wax print cotton dress

    Gavin Rajah, another long-time favourite in South African fashion, accessorised with a Babatunde umbrella

    Deola Sagoe already enjoys international success with her fearless expression of femininity in her designs. Her current collection features

    Ituen Basi’s colourful Bolero works great with the Taibo Bacar bustier and Loincloth & Ashes printed skirt

    Our favourite outfit of the shoot: a sexy wrap jacket from Gavin Rajah and and a faux-suede and wax print cotton skirt by one of South Africa’s leading young designers, Thula Sindi. He’s shown at Milan, and we hope to see Thula’s designs on these shores soon.


    All photographs courtesy of Elle South Africa.