Johannesburg Fashion District

An area that takes up 26 city blocks around Mooi Street and Kerk Street, east of the High Court in the Johannesburg CBD, is historically known as the Fashion District. It was once a vital and thriving part of downtown Johannesburg but it has fallen on the same fate as most of the CBD, with the money and fashionable people all moving away. But in recent years, together with other renewal projects in downtown Jo’burg, a few of the buildings were renovated as part of an initiative to inject new life into the historical district. If you visit today you will find a variety of fashion related businesses, including training centres, studio hubs that provide facilities for emerging designers to start their own businesses and haberdasheries. There are repair shops for sewing machines and new state-of-the-art industrial machines for sale.

I came expecting to see the same urban gentrification that you see at Juta street (see here) in Braamfontein or Arts on Main (see here and here), but truth be told this area hasn’t quite made it yet. Thinking about it afterwards, it is almost a question of momentum – an area starts picking up when a critical mass of the buildings, or blocks, in an area undergo a change. And right now, the renewed part of town around the fashion district is still competing with too many things that do not care for ‘fashion’ or the people that are interested in it. It is a shame because especially Fashion Kapitol, a modern retail space with a lovely public square in Pritchard street, has real potential to form the nucleus of something great – much like the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein (see here), or 44 Stanley in Millpark (see here).

We ended up having coffee at The Fashion Shack, a store-and-café combination inside the Fashion Kapitol precinct with a real sense of humour. I liked the big colourful mural that captures SA life and their playful take on coffee tables. One was a truck tire, another and old bathtub covered with a glass top, complete with little goldfish and plastic ducks inside. 

Across the street, we also visited the Fashion District Wholesalers at 109 Pritchard Street. The shop is the largest haberdashery shop in the country. Next door at Studio 109, I was blown away by their range of traditional Shweshwe designs. They actually claim that they stock all the Shweshwe designs currently in print! 

I am sure that areas like Arts on Main were also started by someone putting down the first funky and renewed space in what at the time seems like an unlikely place. I hope that the area I saw on Saturday is the first such space for the fashion district. 

Click below for more details:
Fashion District website
Fashion Kapitol Facebook page
Fashion Shack Facebook page


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