By: Courtney Rehman
When we think ‘retro’ and ‘vintage,’ we think 1960s/1970s etc. but not for this brand. Blaque Vint_Kouture and Xcoris have taken retro and vintage into a different direction.
Blaque Vint_Kouture and Xcoris sell retro and vintage clothing and handmade jewellery. The jewellery is crafted from repurposed objects like foreign coinage natural beads like indigenous imfibinga. Each piece is unique and packaged in recycled objects like polish tins and hair care product containers. They also use shells, buttons, scrap PVC and leather salvaged from local seamstresses and upholsterers. The aesthetic appeal of their pieces is a beautiful, African inspired handcraft, both artistic and wearable.
‘We find vintage and retro clothing from different sources and most of our items have a story and history. We also offer handmade customized work on clothing like alterations and refinement. Our clothes and the accessories we offer to our customers reflect our appreciation of the “Old World” craftsmanship and quality. Our customers get styling advice on introducing vintage to their everyday wear and special occasion needs. We pride ourselves on introducing people to a sustainable, affordable lifestyle and quality.
When did the journey begin for Blaque Vint_Kouture and Xcoris? Xcoris-by-Nakin began in 2003 while Nakin (the director) was with child. She began selling her wearable art pieces to friends, colleagues and family in 2007 as a nameless brand. The brand was officially named in 2017 when Nakin began trading as a pop-up stall. Blaque Vint_Kouture began in 2015 after the death of T.K’s (the director) mother; it was started in memory of her mother. With the help of a close friend Thobeka Dhlomo (Vuma-Fm Dj) who runs a monthly event called Retro Bazaar, the business began to pop-up monthly. Even though one was born from life and the other from death, the two companies collaborated in April 2017 and have been in sync since.
Since the artwork being retro and vintage and using such materials, what is the meaning or story behind this creation? Using vintage, retro and recycled materials means promoting a sustainable, eco-conscious lifestyle. This is what the brand represents, it’s about influencing responsible consumerism for the sake of the environment by using recycled and repurposed ‘raw materials’ (like salvaged leather PVC, fabric, recycled bottles and tins for packaging, broken chains, clothing from 1960-1990). Reinventing and reviving pre-loved items (jewellery and clothing) represents an odé to the craftsmanship and beauty of designs from the vintage and retro eras. We add a contemporary African/ethnic element to the wearable art pieces in attempt to represent and preserve beading styles passed down to generations.
How did you get people interested in your work and to buy the pieces, with the kind of materials you use? Being stylists’ means we can create looks that are interesting and aesthetically pleasing while being eccentric and unique at the same time. Inspiration comes from street style and art exhibitions, to name a few. These can be seen in our displays at pop-up events/markets where we pair the right clothing and accessories that’ll speak to the consumers we want to attract at that particular venue. Preferably one who appreciates vintage, raw art craftsmanship as well as unique Afro-centric element.
What has the growing process been like, from when Blaque Vint_Kouture and XcoriS started to where it is now? Blaque Vint_Kouture began as a desperate means to make money. The director is a lover of arts in all forms and manifested this into her displays. The displays drew quite a lot of attention as it represented a vintage lifestyle not just a fashion sense. What initially began as just sourcing, fixing and selling vintage clothes, later progressed to making alterations and recreating the vintage clothing. Xcoris-by-Nakin began as a hobby/meditative craft. People’s appreciation and support of the product turned the hobby into a commercial venture. The first creations were rough around the edges, but with time and practice the quality improved. Nakin is a self-taught crafter, with some childhood beading lessons from her mother. Initially finding the right markets with the right clientele was a hassle, as very few people understood/appreciated our art. Vintage pop-ups were still a foreign trend in Durban, but after much trial and error there began to be a demand for vintage clothing. The pop-up trading society has grown momentum; the business has had the privilege of trading at events such as:
- Durban Street Food Festival 2015
- Diamonds in the dirt 2015 (a Department of Arts and Culture initiative)
- Poetry Africa 2015
- The Art Street Carnival 2015
- Winniefest 2015 (Winston Pub)
- Mega City Mlazi Valentine’s Day 2016
- Princess to Queen Agenda Launch 2016
- Ekasi Art Stories 2016 (Hosted by Artdiqted Entertainment & Arts Co.)
- Essence Festival 2017
- Mazisi Kunene Museum Human Rights Day 2017
- Thursday PM Sessions 2017 (Hosted by PMMF)
- Something Afrikan Celebration 2017
- The Bloody Brawl 2017 (Hosted by Raw Deal Battle Ground)
- Alliance Française Franco fete Human Rights Day Festival 2018
It has also traded at markets such as:
- First Thursdays Station Drive
- Essenwood Market
- Rivertown (8 Morris Place)
- Fenton Lane Market
- Farmer’s East Coast Market (still trading)
- Onbekend @237 (still trading)
- The Retro Bazaar (still trading)
- I Heart Market @ Moses Mabhida
Frequently trading at local events/markets and social media engagements has done wonders for helping us grow and improve our style and techniques based on the demand/requests from customers. Furthermore, event coordinators are now seeking us out to trade at their events, which is growing the brand at an exceptional pace.
Is there any difference between the clothing and jewellery or are they both telling the same story? The clothing and wearable art pieces tell similar stories. Each item is about preserving and appreciating unique vintage, techniques, quality and styles. Each piece may tell a different story to the observer/buyer and each item has a story of its origin and journey into our hands. Our brand is about not discarding items, but reinventing them in order to collaborate the “Old World” craftsmanship into the “New World” craftsmanship, making style travel through time as it is timeless.
What are some of the most popular pieces amongst the clothing and jewellery range? The popularity of items purchased varies from venue to venue. It also depends on the street style trending at that moment, as every week we change and improve upon our techniques and styles based on what’s happening in the world at that moment. The most requested items tend to be colorful and Afro-centric with intriguing tales of their journey into our hands. Sometimes customers are captivated into purchasing items more by the stories behind the items, than the item itself.
Describe Blaque Vint_Kouture and Xcoris in a hashtag; #wewearwokevintagewithethniceccentricbling
What else can we expect from Blaque Vint_Kouture and Xcoris in the near future? The business aims to create a fully functioning Developmental Art Network Community (DANC) that allows all creatives to collaborate and exchange services using the vintage bartering system. The business has created, and hopes to create more, pop-up events that accommodate all forms of vintage artists such as dancers, chefs, painters, musicians, designers, crafters, photographers, etc. The business is currently focusing on collaborating with painters who paint on clothing items we find and can’t sell, due to rust and aging stains. The painters will use the items as canvases to create oil painting images of legends and icons from the Africa diaspora such as: Brenda Fassie, Nina Simone, Malcolm X, Winnie Mandela, Miriam Makeba and others.
The business is also collaborating with other artists and designers and hopes to expand into selling bags, shoes, denim, etc. with an African vintage twist. Blaque Vint_Kouture and Xcoris-by-Nakin are about telling Afro-centric stories through wearable art that has been preserved over the years and discovered by us to reinvent and appeal to the modern critics.
‘Our business focus at present is setting up a permanent online store while continuing with pop-up retail at events, festivals and local flea markets’.