Investing in a few winter wardrobe classics that you can wear for years is the smart women’s way to shop for fashion in 2019. We spoke to Bonolo Zwane and Banele Mark Graham, co-owners of fashion ready-to-wear brand nje for their tips on what to look for…

The job of a fashion retailer is much more than making clothes that people want to wear.  Through their work, they need to consider the unplanned (social) media impact of events around them, the general vibe of the city or country they work in and consumer trends. They need to create new conversations and have the ability to leave us wanting more.

Bonolo Zwane explains: “There was a time when florals were only worn in summer and colours such as black, rust and forest green were prominent in winter.

Designers now use everything from acid neons to bright yellow, azure teal to daring fuchsia in the winter months

There seems to be more experimenting with bold colours, along with conventional summer designs but in warmer as well as knitted fabrics. People are feeling a summer, sensual and alluring vibe this winter! But I have to add that a good versatile beige never goes out of style.”

Co-owner Banele Mark Graham continues that they have had many requests for military style capes which they began producing last year.

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Capes have become a staple wardrobe necessity for both colder and warmer seasons in the last few years and are definitely making a come-back this winter. We’re seeing 80s style dropped shoulders in shirts and trench coats. Also, cardigans and knitted dresses are gaining some popularity among the discerning ready-to-wear shopper.”

Layering is big this season

According to Zwane, layering is big this season. “We live in a country where the weather isn’t as severe as e.g. in Europe. During the day it can warm up nicely and then get really cold as the sun sets.

“Comfort is key! You don’t want to feel too hot and sweaty while combining and layering different fabric types. And of course you want to use different lengths of garments to showcase the contribution of each garment to the entire look. We’d probably recommend starting with three layers and using a shawl as the outermost layer for first timers experimenting with layers.”

A timeless coat-dress is the item to invest in

A favourite winter style item for the duo is a timeless coat-dress that doubles up as either a dress or coat at the snap of a button or press-stud. Graham continues: “Our customers can expect unique, multi-wear, dropped shoulders and subtly sexy garments as always. In our popular branded athleisure, we have fleece and a few of our other designs have elements of satin, especially in our lining. We also have a unique surprise garment celebrating the professions of our regular shoppers spanning finance, medicine, marketing and entertainment.”

Zwane explains that although most of us love a long trench coat, the length should depend on your height, body shape and preference for heels versus flats. “Athletic body shapes tend to pull off ankle or floor length coats with ease irrespective of their height, while lengths just above the ankles combined with slight height in the shoes, tend to flatter the fuller, shorter figure like my own.”

Inspired by the diversity of women

As a team, they are inspired by the diversity of women. “Our clients vary so much in personal style, income and age. Each one is unique so we aim to offer wearability in more than one way. About 70% of our clothing are multi-wear garments. We also believe in a quality fit, irrespective of the sizes we offer, from extra small to double extra-large,” Zwane adds.

Graham comments that their clientele are discerning shoppers. “They tend to have quality preferences irrespective of how much they have to spend at the end of the month. This means our customer and therefore our four clothing ranges are quite distinctly diverse. Most of our clients love to experiment with the different looks from our multi-do, work-it, quirky-me and turn-up ranges.”

When it comes to their fabric choices, good value for quality is key as well as considering small bug-bears including how certain fabrics flow or feel on the skin. Says Zwane: “Our designs must be original, versatile, of excellent quality and a bit quirky. Our inspiration is always the unexpected, without compromising on comfort and quality.”

The team loves specific looks. “Most times we ascribe the inspiration of our clothing to our unique sense of style and creativity. But in truth, everything around us inspires our designs to some degree, even small elements in what people wear,” Graham concludes.

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