MATSIDISO: Shoes for the Liberated, Made in South Africa

Cape Town based label, Matsidiso (pronounced Mat-see-dee-so), is one of the newest kids on the shoe block. Founder, Jinae Niles, launched the women’s shoe and accessories brand that fuses African influences with modern elements in May 2017. Despite not having technical training, Niles took a hands-on approach and learnt about design by working at a factory before embarking on Matsidiso.  It’s only been a few months and this brand is already standing out for diverse reasons. Some of which include:

[Image: Matsidiso]

Apprenticeship

The fashion industry is often misidentified as a pie. Everyone wants a piece of it but there’s the illusion that there isn’t enough to go around. Limiting it for a select few. What we often forget is that there is an entire bakery of treats to choose from. Consequently, there is not only enough room for new designers in the market, but also a need for established designers to groom the next generation.

[Image: Matsidiso]

According to Magenta Magazine S.A, Niles was exposed to this opportunity three years ago when she met the husband in South Korea. It was while assisting her mother-in-law with the digital marketing for her ballet manufacturing company that she got the idea. At that time they had decided to relocate to South Africa, and she saw the opportunity to add everyday shoes to her mother-in-law’s business. Luckily, she was given the freedom to learn about the process of crafting handmade dance shoes and the design process.

The Akeelah [Image: Shirley Hunt Photography]
Further support from her family came when she pitched the idea of designing one-of-a-kind shoes under the company banner. She defined this in an interview with Design Indaba as, “By one-of-a-kind I mean that we are totally original in our last (mould of the shoe), design (as all were hand shaped first), and that because each pair is handmade, no two pairs are exactly alike. Sometimes the fabric or leathers turn out slightly differently on each of the shoes because of the different variations that occur in the materials.”

Dineo booties [Image: Matsidiso]

Community Related

Matsidiso is Sotho for blessings/ comfort. An element that she wanted reflected in the community that the brand would be thriving in. It was important that these shoes created a positive impact in the lives of the workers and the community at large. With social responsibility in mind, they set up a fund where five percent of each pair sold would go back to the people of Cape Town. In particular, three percent would be dedicated to aiding their workers, while two percent would go towards brilliant causes within the community. Through their ‘Break The Chains’ ​programme, they empower their employees with ongoing education opportunities while they work as well as fair wages.

[Image: Matsidiso]

Environmental responsibility takes on many shapes within this brand. Firstly, there’s emphasis on recycling as much of their material as possible. Handcrafting also reduces their carbon footprint on the Earth while ensuring their customers have a quality product that will last for years to come. And finally, it involves small changes in their production chain such as the use of vegetable tanning to make the process a little greener. You can see a little more of their production process below.

 

It’s in the Name

They also provide a platform for the community to reflect their culture in the production process. From the colour schemes to the hand painted fabrics, Matsidiso is inspired by the environment around it. It also shines through the names of the shoes available. Niles chose to start with Mary Jane’s, Oxfords, Boots, Flats and Slip ons but gave them local names which reflect the spirit of their individual designs:

  • OXFORDS – there’s the Zola (which means Tranquil) and Xolani (peace) and Liyana (it’s raining)
  • MARY JANES – Amahle (enough, sufficient) and Anele (the beautiful ones – inspired by an inspired by a soft and versatile woman that is simply intriguing).
  • BOOTIES – Dineo (gifts/talents)
[Image: Matsidiso]

Niles is still learning and thankfully she is in an environment that is willing to share knowledge with her. From her beginnings with flats, she’s now added heels and mules to her Spring/Summer range. In addition, she’s looking to branch into men’s shoes as well. She may still be in the process of finding her footing but her criteria of uniqueness, quality, wearability and the shoes overall impact are clear as day. Being from a marketing background, she knows the importance of listening to customers and her workers to create a product that will be well received. With all these attributes considered it’s easy to see how Matsidiso is a shoe brand that is a “conversation starter, a community builder, a companion, and a family”. We can’t wait to see what comes next!

Xolani hand painted oxford in duck egg speckles and grey [Image: Matsidiso]

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