Vuyiswa Mutshekwane, better known as Vie among Joburg’s cool kids, is a radiant young woman who owns the boutique store Twenty Two, situated on the colourful strip of Juta Street, Braamfontein. Another brainchild of Vie’s is Fashion Fridays: a monthly event held at Twenty Two where fashion, art, music and a fashion crowd collide to create a vibey scene.
Words: Saint-Francis Tohlang
Photography: Vie Mutshekwane
Braamfontein has become the artsy capital of Johannesburg; it’s grungy, it’s energetic, it captures the hustle and bustle of Jozi and it’s home to what could be referred to as the city’s cultural underbelly. Braamfontein is a fitting example of a space that breathes life into the CBD; it is an evolving ecology where a cultural movement is taking shape, a cultural movement not yet identifiable or easily clustered into definitive qualities. An initiative like Fashion Fridays adds to this growing cultural movement, where fashion, art and music are digested into a packaged lifestyle.
I went along keenly to check out the hype surrounding Fashion Fridays, questioning whether this was just another pseudo attempt at creating an alternative scene, pretentious by nature and vulgar in its attempt to be different. I anticipate the nauseating fashionistas blabbing about the latest fashion trends or the iconic vintage girl sporting a brown ensemble. But I arrive only to be met by a completely honest vibe. Honest in the way everything just feels authentic.
It’s a cosy store, modest in its dimensions with a distinctly African feel. It’s not an African feel that screams African kitsch. The soft lighting and the warm colours of the walls invite one into the space. There is just that fine ambient sound that makes one feel chilled and at ease. Vie welcomes all the guests with a personal touch encouraging them to browse around and have a drink in the courtyard. The clothing catches the eye and I enquire whether the brands are all South African. I am assured that all pieces are local and lekker.
I chat with Vie, who explains that Fashion Fridays is a representation of ‘the new Joburg’. Vie goes on to say, ‘Joburg is no Sandton City, it’s about being on the street’. Street culture or not, Fashion Fridays works. DJ Okapi, who is proud to strictly play vinyl, is the resident DJ of Fashion Fridays. After stints as a resident in Marvel on Long Street and playing in places like the popular Kitcheners (around the corner from Twenty Two) he has happily found a place whose appeal is in being unique. His selection is different, opting for a more soulful feel. One would swear that this white boy is a child of the soul era. He changes it up with some local eighties pop and funky township jive – just to remind us that we are still firmly rooted in the New York of Africa. It’s an appreciative crowd, moving to his beats, refreshed by some golden oldies and surprised by his musical cues that prompt a shared revisit down memory lane.
The courtyard is where everyone congregates, mingling in the icy weather. Conversation is healthy, ranging from municipal political campaigns, the practicality of suede shoes in Cape Town, toilets (overheard), Lady Gaga and everything and anything one can eavesdrop. Vie is proud that Fashion Fridays attracts a diverse crowd ranging from rugged artists to some wrinkled tannies who still have a liking for happenings. I ask Vie who is most likely to be found at Fashion Fridays. Very tongue in cheek she responds: ‘the cool kids of course’. She elaborates to say that Fashion Fridays are for those who are fashion forward, appreciate innovative things, celebrate local talent and embrace an ‘alternative African lifestyle’ (whatever that means).
I leave Fashion Fridays relieved that it was a breath of fresh air. I have claimed it as a piece of my Joburg, a monthly experience of nightlife retail shopping. It’s all a visual dialogue sparked by the colourful decor, the wayward outfits, catchy pieces and the funk that is abound; all to be revisited, and reinvented next month at Twenty Two.