African Design Dealers: Merchants on Long

The Cape Town store that was born out of a desire to feed the world the incredible design coming out of Africa. Merchants on Long opened its doors in 2010, and has since established itself with the reputation of being a “home of African fashion”.

Why is a shop with this objective so crucial for African designers?

Laduma Ngxokolo, founder of MaXhosa Africa, believes that it is a paramount space; especially with Africa having a smaller fashion market than the Western world. “It is difficult to build a brand that is self-sustaining and self-sufficient.” voices Laduma. 

“I have an immense love and respect for what they do. [Merchants on Long are] always putting local designers first, which contributes vastly to the local fashion landscape” relays Thebetsile Magugu, the architect behind South African luxury brand; Thebe Magugu.

The global interest, and appreciation, of African design continues to expand and Hanneli Rupert maintains that, “South Africa and our designers hold a central position in this.” Her store, Merchants on Long, was the first stockist of many respected designers and she feels fortunate to have been a part of their journeys. 

“I love designers like Lukhanyo Mdingi for his sophisticated use of local, sustainable materials.”

MaXhosa is easily one of the most influential South African fashion brands coming out of the last decade/s. They are admired for their translation of traditional Xhosa beadwork patterns into beautiful, modern knitwear. 

“The world Laduma has created with MaXhosa is unbelievable and irreplaceable,” expresses Hanneli Rupert, the owner, and soul, behind Merchants on Long. The brand and store made their connection back in 2011.

Thebe Magugu serves us sleek designs that pay homage to the African continent and her textured stories. We are met with firm fabrics, course pattern and soft colour.

“I like to think of my brand as encyclopaedic – there are so many stories from our rich cultural heritage and history, and I like to use fashion to create totems alluding to, and explaining those histories. Fashion is my mouthpiece for all my thoughts and opinions, and I would [have] felt unheard or unseen without it,” voices Thebetsile.

 When it comes to aligning with designers, Hanneli Rupert notes that she has “always looked for brands that have integrity in their story and production. We do not have a homogenised “look” but there is a focus on quality, authenticity and originality.”

The store is dedicated to celebrating fashion that goes beyond the surface of beautiful textiles.

Amongst the array of talented brands and designers that make up the collective deemed the “first African concept store”, we also find Marrakshi Life.

Marrakshi Life illustrates their commitment to creating a conscious impact with their designs; “we wanted to build something authentic in nature, that was sustainable at its core and inception, and focused on creating pieces made for the human that orders them. Not polluting the world with stock and inventory that just sits there. The made to order concept is something that makes every piece special. Made just for you.”

Laduma, the MaXhosa visionary, highlights the separation between retail as an industry, and the innovators in the fashion sphere, “ we are masters of design.” The store took on the roles necessary to allow the designers to focus on their craft.

“[Merchants on Long] took all our unique voices, that speak to Africa luxury, in one space and made it a special dedication to what we were trying to create.” he reminisces.

Merchants on Long remains committed to uplifting African voices and stories. The store helps frame many emerging designers in the industry. Hanneli Rupert has sustained what began as her passion, but transformed into a hub for the future leaders of our continent’s fashion and design.

PHOTOGRAPHER :  DAVID SESSIONS
PHOTOGRAPHER ASSISTANT : WINSTON SUSSENS
FASHION DIRECTOR : CHRISNA DE BRUYN
MODELS : SAM AVATAR & NKOSI  @OUTLAWSMODELS
COPY EDITOR : JODI REDELINGHUYS
FASHION DESIGNERS : MAXHOSA AFRICA & THEBE MAGUGU & MARRAKSHI LIFE
MERCHANTS ON LONG STREET & WATERFRONT