Meet the local brand giving old garments a new lease on life

11 March 2021 - 14:10
By Thango Ntwasa
Unknwn Projects upcycles fashion for a greener footprint.
Image: Supplied. Unknwn Projects upcycles fashion for a greener footprint.

For decades vintage pieces have always found themselves travelling through different closets, unique pieces filled with memories and passing from one generation to the next.

For the past 15 years, a number of dapper gents and streetwear loving fashionistas have adopted thrifting as a form of attaining pieces that aren’t just unique but allow for a much more nuanced form of expression, a quality that has created a distinct look for Johannesburg’s cool kids and hipsters.

This is where designers Sakhile Cebekhulu and Khotso Mohlokoane enter with a dazzling approach to fashion that has now morphed into an edgier take on streetwear apparel. Cebekhulu (Peace by Khotso) and Mohlokoane (Sash South Africa), who both run their own clothing brands, met as two creative minds who sought to help each other succeed as designers.

An Unknwn Projects boot.
Image: Supplied. An Unknwn Projects boot.

They then started a relationship based on helping each other’s respective brands prosper and grow. With the skills both had accumulated over the years and a mutual passion for conscious fashion, Cebekhulu and Mohlokoane founded Unknwn Projects.

“Khotso came up with the name because we are always working on interesting things and we’re not always sure how they are going to turn out,” says Cebekhulu, who is part of the collective that sees old jackets turn into tote bags, trousers into on-trend body warmers and even sneakers that are given a new life using materials from a windbreaker.

In 2019, numerous reports found that the fashion industry stood in second place in contributing heavily to global waste. Since then, the industry has come under fire especially for retailers who create quick fashion items using materials that are cheap to produce and buy yet take centuries to disintegrate.

While the shift has been difficult for some bigger brands who have a larger consumer base to feed, smaller bands like Unknwn Projects have capitalised in not only being selective in the materials they re-design but have also created a space where items have a uniqueness to them.

An Unknwn Projects jacket.
Image: Supplied An Unknwn Projects jacket.

With the past year changing the way we dress from constricting clothing appropriate for demanding work hours to comfort-conscious dressing that allows for freedom of expression, Unknwn Projects looked to crafting looks around garments that have the practical appeal of streetwear.

“Sports apparel is mostly functional. We are in the working world and not everyone wants to be in a suit so we are always trying to find ways to make clothing that fits into the performance of our day-to-day lives,” says Mohlokoane. “It’s very experimental.”

With a number of projects in the pipeline for Unkwn Projects, both designers are working hard on their upcoming autumn/winter collections. You can follow Unknwn Projects on Instagram @unknwnprojects.