0 Cart
Added to Cart
    You have items in your cart
    You have 1 item in your cart
    Check Out Continue Shopping

    Boutique Fashion News

    Choolips on the Southbank

    Just how amazing do these beautiful Choolips look? We’re so bad at keeping things to ourselves. We were so excited by how gorgeous Toyin and Jessica look sunning it up along the Southbank in Choolips creations that we couldn’t resist sharing one preview shot.

    The photoshoot is part of our 2012 Campaign which features our favourite pieces from designers such as Kutowa, Modahnik, KikoRomeo, Kooroo, Tina Lobondi and of course Choolips, all of which (and more) we are stocking on our online boutique now.

    For more gorgeous Choolips, click here:

    Ndebele Notions

    The Ndebele people of South Africa and Zimbabwe are arguably one of Africa’s most distinctive and therefore easily recognisable tribes. With their unique geometrically patterned homes and garments of ornate beadwork, the Ndebele people are proving to be an endless source of inspiration for artists and designers around the world.

    Hollywood sat up and took notice when fashion mogul Kimora Lee Simmons arrived at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s prestigious Costume Institute Gala in 2008 swathed in a knock-out Ndebele-patterned ball gown. Simmons helped design the gown with American designer Kevan Hall and VogueUS’s former editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley. Her fashion choice certainly made people sit up and pay attention, and it brought this unique design even further into the limelight.

    Kimora Lee Simmons showing off a Ndebele-inspired gown

    So what’s the story behind this popular unmistakably unique print? Well, the Ndebele tribe has its origin in South Africa and Zimbabwe dating back to the 1600s. The design and patterns used by the tribes are most visible in the creative paintings decorating their homes. Interestingly, these designs were once used as secret communication during post-occupation times – the patterns spoke of strength and perseverance, and possibly even communicated secret plots of resistance. But the history behind the graphic design of this print holds far more significance for the Ndebele people.


    Marriage symbolizes a significant rite of passage, particularly for the Ndebele woman. Once she is married, the new bride is responsible for decorating her home in the distinctive geometric colourful designs. She will use her free hand to create the images adorning the walls of her home, typically drawing inspiration from the environment around her.  The back of the house is painted in earthy colours, using charcoal, clay and ground ochre. The front, in comparison, is a vivid representation of the Ndebele wife’s creativity, with vibrant shades of yellow, blue, green and red.

    One identifiable fashion trinket of the Ndebele people is the isingolwani, the collection of multi-coloured hoops worn around the neck. In traditional customs, these hoops are worn by girls during their initiation into womanhood. During this period, they are secluded from the rest of the tribe and are taught by the older matriarchs in preparation for married life. The girls learn invaluable skills like beading, cooking as well as the symbolic painting of their new homes. The colourful neck hoops are made by twisting grass into a circle, securing the hoop tightly with cotton. To ensure the rigidity and sturdiness of the hoop, the band is boiled in sugary water and then laid out in the sun to harden for a number of days. Thereafter the hoops are decorated with brightly coloured beads in distinctive Ndebele fashion.

    At their initiation ceremony, girls are also presented with an apron called an amaphephetu, a sturdy rectangular garment decorated with vivid three-dimensional graphics to symbolize the event.  These aprons are later substituted for robust, square-shaped aprons made of leather. It is on her wedding day that the prestigious nguba or marriage blanket is worn.

    Another striking form of jewellery distinctive to this tribe is the idzilo or idzila – elegantly stacked brass rings worn around the neck, legs and arms. On her wedding day, a bride is given a set of these rings from her husband to be worn as a symbol of her devotion to him. Generally speaking, the wealthier the husband, the more elaborate the rings. In earlier days, a woman was to wear these rings until the death of her husband. However, this is no longer customary, with modern-day wives only wearing their adornments for traditional gatherings. This may be a good thing, considering that some women were known to wear rings weighing up to 20 kilograms!


    It is no wonder that fashion designers from across the globe are drawing inspiration from the distinctive and eclectic Ndebele style. One designer that displayed a totally unique take on this classic design was Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch who, in his 2007 Spring collection, fused Ndebele patterns with street punk style. Herchcovitch recognized the one-of-a-kind designs of traditional Ndebele fashion and fused it with non-conformist punk-rock wear. The result was a critically acclaimed collection of never-before-seen African-punk fusion.

    Most recently, UK Vogue dedicated an extensive fashion editorial to the plains of Africa in their May 2012 issue.  Entitled “High Plains Drifter”, the photo shoot was shot by acclaimed photographer Mario Testino and featured an eclectic mix of Ndebele patterns alongside other bold graphic prints.

    Today, visitors are welcome to explore the Ndebele culture by visiting sites such as the Kghodwana Cultural Village in Bronkhorstspruit, or the Botshabelo Mission Station in Mpumalanga, South Africa. The latter is the traditional home of renowned Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu.

    The prolific Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu donning full Ndebele regalia, standing in front of one of her works

    For further reading on the influence of African culture on contemporary fashion, check out as well as and for further information on the Ndebele tribe.

    For your own taste of authentic Ndebele art, visit Sapellé’s Artisan Collection where you will find beaded Ndebele hairbands made by women from South Africa. Each one is said to tell a story about love and life. Find them here



    Contributor: Lesleigh Kivedo

    Out of Africa – A Source of Design Inspiration

    African print has inspired the fashion world this season

    It was author Isaac Bashevis Singer who said: “What a strange power there is in clothing.” While clothing was once used solely for basic protection against the elements, it goes without saying that today it is so much more.

    Clothing can define a nation. Think of the traditional Indian sari, the Islamic burqa or the Japanese kimono.  Each style is sacred and symbolic to its wearer, the meaning behind it dating back to its cultural and ancestral roots. And nowhere else is this heritage more evident than in Africa. The cultural footprint of a people can be finely traced in the eclectic and unique patterns worn by its members.

    This richness in visual and textual design could explain the recent surge in African-inspired fashion worldwide. Well-known international designers are using the African landscape as their muse. Watching the 2012 Spring/Summer collections at the major fashion weeks, it would appear that many of them are drawing some inspiration from the same African source. Burberry Prorsum’s 2012 Resort collection featured a decidedly African theme – trench coats, dresses and shoes crafted in traditional Ankara fabric, which also proved popular on the runways of Proenza Schouler. The African cloth also appears to be a favourite on the Hollywood red carpet, seen on famous figures from Beyoncé Knowles and Alicia Keys to Gwen Stefani and Fergie.

    On the high street too this trend is gaining traction. One example is the design collaboration between fashion house Marni and Swedish retailer H&M. The Italian design team are known for their inspired use of quirky textures and unique patterns in their clothing. So it came as no big surprise when the label expanded its creative sphere to experiment with African designs. In March 2012, the company announced its collaboration with Swedish fashion retailer H&M. The collection featured a definite East African kitenge accent that proved a hit with the European market – the London store had sold out the entire collection by lunchtime on its first day, reported Vogue UK.

    African textures and patterns seem to be replacing the stalwart designs of yester-year. However, there has been much debate about this trend, especially around the fact that international designers and retailers are borrowing from an African aesthetic but not actually producing their garments on the continent itself. Many feel that this sends a message that while the African prints and textiles are good enough for design, the African manufacturers aren’t.

    One international brand getting it right, however, is the collaborative clothing company, EDUN. Thirty percent of their clothing is reported to be manufactured in Africa, in eight factories across the continent. The label was launched in 2005 and is fronted by U2 singer Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson.  While their previous designs focussed mainly on T-shirts with African motifs, their Spring/Summer 2012 collection showed a whole new aesthetic. The garments were all brightly emblazoned in typical African patterns meshed with more Western-inspired floral prints. Particularly striking were dip-dyed indigo garments handmade in Mali.

    At the recent “Design Africa” summit in New York, which comprised a panel covering all sectors of the fashion industry, the discussion around the future of Africa as a fashion hub was the highlight. The real question seemed to be advancing the continent from more than just a source of inspiration for overseas designers, but also a collaborative partner. Online retailer and advocate of African design Enyinne Owunwanne brought light to the fact that there are invaluable craftsmanship skills that only African tailors can impart. The best solution, it seems, would be a mutually beneficial relationship between foreign designers and their African counterparts.

    For this reason, Sapellé has a vested interest in showcasing the best of what the African continent has to offer . And while the discussion around Africa’s fashion footprint is certainly an extensive and far-reaching topic, the important thing is that the conversation is an on-going one. And the more the spotlight is shone on the unique design potential on the continent, the brighter it will shine. In the words of Nigerian-born London-based fashion designer Duro Olowu: “The world, including the fashion world, is becoming ever-more global. I think the African influence is more than a new trend. Now it’s part of the melting pot.”

    As an ardent supporter of ethically-produced African products, we at Sapellé understand the proud heritage and importance of the African connection. This is why we have provided a platform for African labels to showcase their work to the rest of the world. Not only do we focus on world-class designs, but even more importantly on socially-responsible business practices that will ultimately make their mark on well-being and economic development in Africa.


    Contributor: Lesleigh Kivedo

    Welcome to Our Blog

    Welcome to Sapellé Style.


    Contemporary, stylish and conscious is how we’d best describe our way of thinking.

    Contemporary: Wherever it is we’ve come from, we believe that we should strive to make the best of our life journeys, and that our experiences enrich us. We recognise beauty in our diversity and strength in our unity of thought and purpose.

    Stylish: We want to look great without breaking the bank or destroying the planet; Sapellé Style has an eye for the unique, the fresh and the beautiful, and will bring you cool style trends and interesting concepts from the fashion and design world.

    Conscious: We care about the world and are inspired by those who make it a better place; we’re passionate about  ethical and social  responsibility when it comes to living life and doing business. We believe in giving people a fair shot to use their skills and talents to be self-sufficient; we are hugely excited to see that mainstream fashion, music, film, art and design – and their audiences are opening up to this concept.

    We hope you enjoy our news, stories and musings on all of these wonderful things.