Arty Karoo brand Daisie Jo creates slow fashion that celebrates slow living

25 July 2021 - 00:00 By thango ntwasa
Lindiwe wrap dress by Daisie Jo.
Lindiwe wrap dress by Daisie Jo.
Image: Zander Opperman

There's a sense of frivolity associated with the phrase "wearable art", but Karoo-based designer Daisie Jo Grobler, who creates it, is very serious about sustainable fashion too.

The eclectic pieces she crafts for her brand, Daisie Jo, are intended to be seasonless and timeless; the sort of garments that can be passed down from one generation to another.

She tells us more:

Tell us a bit about your upbringing

I grew up in a rural Free State town on the Lesotho border. It was not a typical border town because many foreigners from all over lived there and worked across the border in Maseru.

I was always fascinated by what people wore and inspired by the variety of clothing styles - the juxtaposition of Chanel suits worn by the European expats to the chic layering of the Basotho shepherds of the Lesotho mountains.

How did you fall in love with fashion?

I can't remember not being interested in art. Growing up we were surrounded by artists and ceramicists. My parents are creative people; my father was an architect. I also spent a lot of time with my grandmother, who loved fabric and embroidery. I suppose the combination of these childhood influences steered me towards a useful/wearable form of art. My work is more art than fashion per se.

Sonskyn hand-painted dress by Daisie Jo.
Sonskyn hand-painted dress by Daisie Jo.
Image: Zander Opperman

How would you describe the ethos of your art?

Conscious creation, considered and mindful consumption. I think the environment I grew up in - and really not liking shopping - formed my approach to consume considerately and create consciously. Slow fashion that celebrates slow living.

At Daisie Jo we embrace our imperfections and humanness, producing seasonless clothes with its lifespan in mind - a piece you can mend over time, instead of chucking out.

Who are your influences in terms of your zeal for textiles and fabric manipulation?

My admiration for textiles, fabric manipulation and embroidery came from my Ouma, a master embroiderer. Her garden and embroidery still inspire me today. My mother had a lifestyle brand and I would sit in her factory and embroider with the Basotho ladies making scatter cushions and table cloths.

Tell us about your seasonless approach to your collections.

One of my primary aims with my seasonless clothing is to create pieces with a real lifespan. Far beyond the wear-it-once, post-a-pic and chuck-it-out mentality that is so pervasive, thanks to the crimes of fast fashion. I want my clients to see their Daisie Jo pieces as clothing you mend over time. Just like my Ouma would have, instead of forgetting about it. Mending only adds to the charm and, frankly, fits perfectly with the Daisie Jo signature aesthetic.

This Daisie Jo Moon Flower dress is made from deadstock brocade.
This Daisie Jo Moon Flower dress is made from deadstock brocade.
Image: Zander Opperman

There is so much pressure to ensure one is selling as many garments as possible while remaining true to your design aesthetic. How do you stay true to being a brand that sells and still promotes slow fashion consumption?

Living in the Karoo for the past few years has changed the way I experience life - even before the pandemic. Creating clothes takes time and I put a lot of consideration into each detail in the hope that the consumer will consider how they treat the garment to extend its lifespan, taking extra care of it because it feels special and loved. My goal is to make clothes that last; that can be passed on as treasured heirloom pieces.

You have also found ways to create opportunities and train others. How have you done this?

There is so much talent in South Africa, especially when it comes to hand crafts and artisanal work. I am based in a very small town in the Karoo and have been privileged to be able to find people who are good at beading and embroidery. But it is more a case of skill sharing and learning from each other. I have a handful of people who have helped me with handwork projects, each bringing their own eye and way of doing things to create beautiful pieces. This is something I am passionate about and hope to take further. It is limited as we are still a very small business.

Minimum wage is something that has always bothered me and I hope to grow Daisie Jo into a group that can afford to pay helpers and assistants a good living wage, where all can be proud of their work and enjoy their working environment.

What do you think is needed in the South African fashion industry?

I think we have more than we are able to utilise; it is such a rich country and we have so much to offer. I think education in how to utilise it fairly and honestly is needed. South Africa is so rich in resources, but we don't know how to effectively and equitably use those resources to add value. I think education is the only way we can learn to use, create and share in the fair and honest way that our futures all depend on.