Back in the late eighties and early nineties, streetwear was a bit of a myth in South Africa. Although the scene was starting to explode throughout the US and Asia, international sanctions meant that those interested had little access to information about new releases. Fast-forward to the noughties, and while apartheid had ended, a dearth of retailers and still limited (although increasing) internet access meant that imports were of little importance.
Anything that did happen, then, happened locally. Since the mid-noughties, South African streetwear brands have continued to spring up and rapidly blossom. Starting with arcade-inspired 2-Bop – headed up by vanguard Anthony Smith – the scene’s seen the likes of DEAD., PVNK + Ivy and D.O.C.C grab the baton with style. Meanwhile, Zaid Osman founded cult store and event Sneaker Exchange and buzzy brand Grade Africa, taking the scene to new levels.
Now, Zaid’s back with a-GRADE, a new capsule produced in partnership with global grassroots initiative Chivas Venture. Spanning nine smile-inducing pieces, the miniature has been created in collaboration with four emerging designers – Sabelo Shabalala, Josh Badenhorst, Robyn Agulhas and Lindie Modiselle – each inspired by the country’s sport and spirit.
Leading the charge is the Valley Two Piece, a co-ord inspired by the mountains of Cape Town (and, interestingly, the valleys of Scotland). It’s ready to be matched with a slew of accessories, from the silken Grade Scarf to the oversized Fisherman Hat, a nod to the country’s angling. Elsewhere, the Homage Jersey does what it says on the trim and offers an ode to the country’s love of rugby (big up the Springboks!), while the Grade School Varsity Jacket – layered atop a matching vest – is fit with playing cards representing the country’s hustle culture.
What truly makes it a potent capsule, though, is its charitable nature. Proceeds from the collection go to the Grade Africa Foundation – which aims to eliminate extreme poverty and provide more opportunities from abroad to Africa – and back to the designers, catalysing their future streetwear ventures. Forget Supreme, Palace and North Face for a hot minute; this is hypewear with a heart, stacking coins into a pot of gold for the Rainbow Nation’s streetwear scene.
The a-GRADE capsule is available now here, priced from £12 to £128.