By Ibilola Odunlami
Windhoek - If you are familiar with last month’s Kasi Vibe event in Windhoek, you may have heard how 27-year-old, Pinehas Shikulo, took home the prize for the best stall. Shikulo’s curated vintage clothing store called the Gweri Village, which was decorated with old-fashioned collectables and traditional African board games that gave his stall a township vibe.
Soon to launch his debut collection named Gweri Vintage, Shikulo aims to create a distinctly Namibian fashion brand that has a similar feel.
In collaboration with a prominent South African sock brand, Nic Harry, the first phase of the Gweri Vintage brand will launch a line of customised socks, much like the colourful and daring brand, Happy Socks, but with a more localised look.
The inspiration for the Gweri Vintage line came about when Shikulo felt that although there are many trendy brands to choose from, none of them quite felt relevant. To Shikulo, it was important that whatever he created would communicate a Namibian story.
“I wanted to create something that Namibians can feel proud of,” states Shikulo, “When you wear the product you feel like, yes, this is close to me.” The collection will be characterised through a colour pallet that has been drawn from the country’s landscape and her national colours. The socks will also be coloured in designs that remind buyers of the uniqueness of the local people.
Shikulo chose the name Gweri Vintage because a “gweri” is commonly understood as someone who may not be the coolest or the most popular and mainly referred to Aawambo people of Namibia who are considered to have a strong rural background.
“In society, people have this mindset that if you don’t know certain things, then you can’t be associated with certain people. I’m trying to show people that anyone is cool. Also, I’m more of a vintage stylist.”
What Shikulo is aiming for is the introduction of a new style. By encouraging engagement and inclusion, he believes that Gweri Vintage will become a brand that is more authentic to the Namibian because it is also by the Namibian.
After their debut launch, the design process of the Gweri Vintage brand will be open to the Namibian public for creative input. In the future, Gweri Vintage will become a brand where anyone can inspire its look and feel, and make it their own.
“At the end of the day, I want to create a brand where people feel they have made the brand. It’s not just about me; it’s about all our stories … I want someone to be able to say ‘please go buy the socks because my name is there’ or ‘the idea of that look came from me’."
The brand is mainly targeted towards Namibia’s vibrant youth; firstly, because the youth are more active on the internet and social media and, secondly, because the youth are today’s advocates of growth and change.
Shikulo’s desire is for a more developed local fashion industry. Namibia’s fashion sector is not yet fully industrialised and therefore lacks the infrastructure for independent clothing manufacturing.
“The reason why we are collaborating with the South African brand is that when you look at our market right now, we don’t have the equipment to do these kinds of things by ourselves. I also want us to create a relationship with our brother and sister countries, the SADC countries.”
Shikulo hopes that, if the brand and the local fashion sector can raise enough funds, Namibia can buy its own machines, employ more of the country’s youth, and have more money circulating around the country.
Shikulo adds that Namibia is a country that is lucky to have some things that the world does not have and that Namibians need to use that to their advantage.
In addition to socks, the collection also aims to provide a creative array of T-shirts, shirts, ties and other accessories. As Shikulo and his team are still in the manufacturing stages, it cannot yet be revealed whether the collection will launch this year or next year. According to Shikulo, Gweri Vintage, a mobile store that goes directly to the people, is in the pipeline.