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Hillbrow's haute couture

By unknown | Dec 06, 2006 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Zenoyise Madikwa

Zenoyise Madikwa

Nigerians have propelled Hillbrow into South Africa's "street couture" fast lane.

What began a few years ago, when a few Nigerians started selling on pavements, in churches and later in small shops, has taken the country into cutting-edge style at bargain prices.

Today the shops are smart and for as little as R500, you can buy a dress, shoes, handbag, accessories and lingerie.

Peter Maxon, who owns a shop on the corner of Claim and Kotze streets in Hillbrow, said penetrating the South African fashion market has not been a walk in the park.

"The local people hated us. They said we were crooks who came to take their jobs and businesses. Some said our clothes were Fong Kongs. But today, even TV stars and young professionals buy in our small shops."

He said they try to keep up the trends and high standards of the fashion-conscious locals.

"South Africans love good things. We make sure we do not only sell reasonably priced chic clothes, but our shop decor is sleek too."

Expectations should not be high for newcomers to Hillbrow. The streets are filthy and the ugly apartment blocks are caked with grime.

Don't be surprised if you are followed around by an assistant because shoplifting is rife.

"Crime is the biggest drawback. Customers don't come to Hillbrow because of pickpockets. Street-kids and thugs look for easy targets so we advise shoppers to leave bags and phones at home."

Another Nigerian, Iyke Namndi, imports goods from China and Thailand. Some Nigerians have import licences and they pay import duty while those without licences buy locally, at a higher price.

Namndi said: "It doesn't make a huge difference to our profitability. Asian goods are so cheap and we still make a handsome profit even if we buy from other licence holders."

Namndi's clothes are made while you wait.

He said: "You tell me the quality and the quantity and within 30 minutes the clothes are ready."


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