How ‘The Lion King’ got SA designers into Bloomingdale's famed US stores
Bloomingdale's is undeniably one of the most famous luxury department store chains in the world. So much so that even their packets — the Little, Medium and Big Brown Bags — have become iconic. (Many fashionistas keep them as souvenirs after a trip to the US.)
So our jaws dropped when, while scrolling through Instagram, we spotted a snap of a striking kaftan dress by one of our favourite local designers in the window of their flagship New York store. Needless to say, that's a HUGE deal.
The kaftan in question was designed by Laduma Ngxokolo of MaXhosa by Laduma, one of several African brands currently featured in The Carousel @ Bloomingdale's latest pop-up shops.
Called Style Kingdom, the pop-ups were inspired by Disney's live-action remake of The Lion King and curated with the help of German-Ugandan actress Florence Kasumba, who voices a hyena in the film.
“Being the guest curator for the Style Kingdom is an absolute thrill because I’ve been able to combine my love of fashion and film whilst connecting back to my African heritage,” said Kasumba in a statement.
Alongside MaXhosa’s Xhosa-inspired pieces, visitors to stores can shop for a host of goods created by talented South Africans. There are statement earrings by Pichulik, graphic t-shirts emblazoned with the powerful slogan 'Africa Your Time is Now' by Butter Pudding, and gorgeous scarves by Mantua Silkwear.
All of these brands have taken to social media to express how honoured they are to have been asked to participate. Papama Mtwisha, the designer behind Butter Pudding, posted on Instagram that it was “so surreal” to see one of her garments with a Bloomingdale’s swing tag on it.
Juandi Andrag of Mantua Silkwear agrees that the whole experience has a dream-like quality to it. “Being selected came as a quite a surprise,” she says, “I kept thinking this can’t actually be happening.”
It’s Andrag’s first international order, and the kind of opportunity she believes can help take her Stellenbosch-based design studio to the next level.
“It gives you the credibility you need to move forward,” she explains. “Often people are scared to invest in young, small brands, so having this sort of success on global scale helps convince other large brands that you’re not only able to deliver, but to deliver high-quality products.”
NOT JUST FASHION
It’s not only SA fashion designers whose wares are being stocked at Style Kingdom. Other local suppliers include home and lifestyle brand Carrol Boyes and Fair Trade coffee roasters Bean There.
• The Carousel @ Bloomingdale’s can be found in the department store chain’s shops at 59th Street and Soho in New York, and Century City and San Francisco in California. The Style Kingdom pop-up is open until September 2, and can also be shopped online at Bloomingdales.com