Four local streetwear entrepreneurs you need to know

From left to right: Founders of fashion label I RUN JHB Neo ‘Gabhadiya’ Selemela and Wandile ‘King’ Leeu.
From left to right: Founders of fashion label I RUN JHB Neo ‘Gabhadiya’ Selemela and Wandile ‘King’ Leeu.
Image: Tiyani Baloyi

The approaching festive season will have many of us reminiscing about our childhoods when we would get new clothes to usher in December in style. The days when our parents would dress us up might have passed but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep the tradition alive by splurging on some of the trendiest garb from local brands.

When it comes to the drip, we’re spoiled for choice eMzansi as there are tons of emerging designers and stylists making major waves in the fashion stakes. Many of them find it challenging to get their brands to take off. Fortunately, incubators like the J&B Hive are helping them with the tools they need to be creative while running profitable businesses.

We’ve profiled some of them to keep you in the loop about which labels you need to have on your radar.

Image: Nymbezi Ncaba

D.O.P.E STORE by Andile Cele

Cele’s induction into the fashion world came through his love of basketball and sneakers as a teen.  “I played basketball a lot and that got me into sneakers and looking fresh on and off the court,” he says.

At varsity, he started making his own T-shirts and caps and selling them to friends. Today, the DOPE brand has grown into a lifestyle retail space as well as an in-house sportswear brand. With the assistance of the J&B Hive, Cele has been able to stabilise his company by getting funding to create office and retail spaces.

The future looks bright for DOPE and its founder has his sights set on taking over the world.

“We are looking at being a more global brand with a strong international distribution channel. Locally, we’d like to continue to pioneer and inspire experimental retail channels and experiences with the consumer,” Cele says.

Image: David Motsomotso

Favelo by Sipho Phakathi

This technical streetwear brand was born on street corners in the Johannesburg CBD and the vibrant pop-up markets in Braamfontein.

Favelo connects past and present with threads that weave ’90s sportswear with modern streetwear. “Each piece balances form and function for the urban youth,” says Phakathi.

With help from the Hive, Favelo launched its premier collection in 2017. The brand is tapping into the international market and can be found in 48 stores across the United States.

“In a decade, we want to open an independent flagship store in New York City and in Johannesburg.”


I RUN JHB by Wandile “King” Leeu and Neo “Gabhadiya” Selemela

This creative duo was introduced to fashion through eMzansi street cultures, like skhothane, pantsula and is’bhujwa. Leeu and Selemela fuse traditional aesthetics with streetwear from ekasi to create a proudly South African street subculture called umswenko.

They produce a range of items from T-shirts, dresses and pants to accessories like backpacks, fanny packs, side bags and travel bags.

Leeu and Selemela have aspirations to showcase their designs, which celebrate the hustle and bustle of the City of Gold, in the world’s fashion capitals.

 “We also want to open a chain of retail stores around South Africa and to be shelved at reputable retails shops across the world. We see our brand contributing to eradicating youth unemployment in South Africa,” they say.

The brains behind creative agency House of Amahle, Amahle Mtengenya
The brains behind creative agency House of Amahle, Amahle Mtengenya

House of Amahle by Amahle Mtengenya

If no one is taking pictures or slow-mo videos of your OTTD, were you even looking good? Or even worse, if no one is documenting some of the key moments in street fashion, where will we get style envy from? This is where creative agencies like House of Amahle (HOA) come in. 

Mtengenya’s love affair with fashion started with a desire to look good, feel good and do good. When he started turning heads with his signature garb, people asked him to style them. Through styling, he's also ventured into content producing with his brand company House of Amahle (HOA).

 “My brand company HOA is a creative visual production house and creative agency which creates fashion films, concept shoots and creative concept content for local brands.”

The Hive has given Mtengenya access to the equipment he needs to produce and create content for HOA and has given him the skills to grow his business.

He’d like to see HOA outlets sprout around the country and the globe. “I want to make an online streaming site, where creatives around the world can drop their content, from short and feature films to conceptual shoots, while still running an agency that provides services to clients,” he says.