Kiff Kak: lekker online store riffs off SA's multicultural story

Born out of the founder Courtney Hodgson's 'existential crisis', this quirky local brand sells fun fashion items and nostalgic novelties

21 February 2021 - 00:00 By
The name of the store is a South Africanised version of a slang term referring to cool items.
The name of the store is a South Africanised version of a slang term referring to cool items.
Image: Supplied

Growing up, Courtney Hodgson attended school in a Zulu-dominated area, spending most of her days donning cornrows and scoffing down kotas (a type of bunny chow popular in black townships).

Black cultures and languages were the norm for a young Hodgson, and she got multiple culture shocks when she eventually moved into Afrikaans and English-speaking environments in her teens and young adulthood.

Hodgson is the founder of online store Kiff Kak. The name of the store is a South Africanised version of a slang term referring to cool items. The store concept was born after Hodgson was challenged to create a corporate identity for herself while studying fine art at the University of Pretoria. The challenge was to zone in on one's own heritage.

"That was the first time I had to tackle the topic of who I am. I had a bit of an existential crisis. I'm this third-culture identity that doesn't exactly fit into any single culture and that is where my brand was born," says Hodgson, who credits her multicultural upbringing for her tongue-in-cheek take on design.

Kiff Kak founder Courtney Hodgson.
Kiff Kak founder Courtney Hodgson.
Image: Supplied

The in-your-face products feature comical chicken feet motifs and punchy Afrikaans slang words. Hodgson's work was celebrated in 2019 by the Loerie Awards and the Pangolin Awards and she made it onto the list of Emerging Creatives at the 2020 Design Indaba.

Along with her fashion items Hodgson taps into nostalgic novelties including badges, lucky packets and an upcoming tattoo range that she uses to thread commonalities between South Africans, especially as someone who has experienced the polarising effects of not fitting into the cultural groups she is constantly introduced to.

"Most people who know how I've grown up can understand why I would use Zulu words in my products. But if you don't, it becomes a problem. I once did a market where Afrikaans [-speaking people] were confused about me using their language because I'm English," Hodgson shares.

When taking on different cultures Hodgson includes members of the different cultures, even in the research process of finding the etymology of a term.

Hodgson also plans on extending this by showcasing the craft talents of different cultures in future brick-and-mortar stores.

Hodgson also has her fingers crossed that she will one day collaborate with retailer Mr P for limited-edition clothing and homeware.

Kiff Kak is available at Fat Whale in Ballito and Bang Bang Vintage in Cape Town as well as the official Kiff Kak website.