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Unknown Union launches new store in CT CBD

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Unknown Union has recently launched a fresh new African inspired street-ware collection as well as a new fashion store and gallery space in the heart of Cape Town’s CBD, I attended the launch last Thursday night.
The store’s slogan is ‘Streetwear and contemporary fashion inspired by and made from traditional African fabrics’.

The aesthetic of the space has a modern gallery feel and hosts two floors. The first floor is the clothing section and upstairs is a gallery with an in-house DJ/radio station and DJ Ready D playing his ‘house jams’ every Thursday.

Creative expression space

According to Loren, the store’s PR professional, the store’s goal was to create a space of creative expression which combines art, fashion, literature and music.

The store is owned by Jason and Oscar Storey – Jason being the CEO and designer and his brother, Oscar, the operations director. Jason and Oscar are American and have been travelling to Cape Town annually since 1999. They fell in love with the art and culture and opened a store in 2010, mostly supplying imported goods. Recently Jason has shifted focus to promoting local manufacture and exporting goods instead.
Both brothers were in construction before and were ‘hands on’ in preparing the space for store readiness. Every detail was carefully thought through and has some sort of significance. For examples, the geometry of the bookstore included a bookshelf sporting the lettering of the Chokiwe tribe. There is also an amazing black metal staircase leading up to the gallery and the changing rooms, as well as striking, geometric black and white floors downstairs.

Jason explained that the range is inspired by the beauty that surrounds them locally as well as the different African tribes and countries, which include the Massai from Lesotho, and the sand drawings from the Chokwe tribe in Congo, which are then implemented as prints in the tops.

Urban street with an African twist

The range is an urban street, men’s and ladies’ wear, with an African twist. The styling is exciting and androgynous, sporting longer length vests and tops which could double up as dresses. The other commodities include shirts, bomber jackets and body warmers. The price range is anything between R850–R5,500. The range is produced locally with mostly high quality cotton fabrics, which can compete with local and international markets. Ethical trade is a very important factor to Jason and his team and is explained to the customer on each swingticket.
At the launch I interviewed Barbaro Martinez; an art historian who mentored the team in their understanding and knowledge of the content of art and how to translate that into their designs. He has written several books, which are sold at the store. He believes fashion connects design, architecture and art. It is very important to him that the humanity of fashion is translated to the customer.

This store is a prototype and Jason and Oscar’s future goal is to open a store in Miami, Florida next year.

As the evening continued, we enjoyed music by Ready D, poetry by Adrian as well as songs performed by Jennifer who also hails from the USA. Models exhibiting some of the garments while customers had free roam to browse. We were also part of a lucky draw and I won a bespoke outfit, which will be specifically designed for me. I will also be given the opportunity to be escorted around their design studio to see where all design concepts and production takes place. How exciting!
What an amazing evening. I thoroughly loved the concept, creativity, and versatility of the blend of art, fashion, literature and music. If you would like to visit the store, it’s on the corner of Loop and Bloem street. Have a look at Unknown Union’s http://www.unknownunion.co.za/ for more information.

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