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Authentic textiles weave an original tale in the Cape Town CBD

by Simangele Mzizi 30 Nov 2023
Mungo & African Jacquard

Beautiful home textile stores African Jacquard and Mungo have captured the local and international markets with their beautiful South African products.

Two beautiful stores in the Cape Town city centre are the epitome of authentic entrepreneurship that combines creativity, integrity, good design and solid business sense.

Refined, luxurious, authentic, and well-made with quality materials. These are the hallmarks of locally made products from Mungo and African Jacquard which have the potential to be generational textiles. The two brands are a testament that if something is well-made, people will purchase it even at a premium price because they appreciate its value and the company’s ethos.

They are also great examples of the importance of staying true to your convictions, which is perhaps why they have stood the test of time even though South Africa’s once-booming textile industry has been in deep decline. To overcome challenges such as a lack of local suppliers, both companies have had to be self-reliant and stick to what they do best, which is producing good quality products.

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Christine Daron and Donna Allin
Founder of African Jacquard Christine Daron with managing director, Donna Allin.

AFRICAN JACQUARD

Preserving tradition while embracing innovation is at the heart of this luxury home textile brand with its exquisite range of throws, cushions, towels and table and kitchen linen woven with cotton from Africa and linen from France. 

The business is the brainchild of French-born entrepreneur Christine Daron, who founded African Jacquard in 2014. She was keen to marry her heritage of luxury French home linens, woven in the style of Jacquard, with warm African colours. The business, which today employs 22 women, opened its new Cape Town CBD branch in one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town at 53 Church Street on 2 November 2023, thereby expanding its presence in the Western Cape to three locations. Its two other stores are in Stellenbosch and at the V&A Waterfront. There are also over 40 African Jacquard stockists in more than 25 countries.

Key to the African Jacquard success story is the Jacquard loom, which dates back to 1804. Managing director Donna Allin explains that Daron, with her love of textiles, has always loved textiles produced by the Jacquard loom. “She lived in Africa for about 35 years, spending most of her time in Gabon and Congo. In 1997, she moved to South Africa where she discovered a mill with Jacquard looms and in 2014, her weaving journey led to the birth of African Jacquard.”

Christine Daron is still involved in the business and her travels throughout Africa continue to inspire the design process of new products which Allin says are always focused on ensuring fabrics have texture and depth.

Allin explains: “Last year, for example, Christine drove from Cape Town to Kenya with her husband. She came back with images and stories of her travels, and we then discussed how to translate these into a product in our range and started experimenting with fabric to get the right texture. We then started playing with colours, choosing samples and running them into production. Then we formulated the narrative …  why we chose the colours and where the inspiration came from.”

She says their business has expanded exponentially since she joined in 2021, reaching new heights every year. “The recent secret to our success has been agility, a clear growth strategy and creating a positive work environment for all. We have been bold in our designs, decisions, and access to markets. By nature, I am also bold, and driven and I am passionate about contributing towards our business’s success.”

53 Church St | www.africanjacquard.com

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Stuart Holding (right) and his two children, Tessa and Dax
Founder of Mungo, Stuart Holding (far right) with his children Tessa and Dax.

MUNGO

Mungo, which has been a CBD destination store since 2016, is where contemporary textile design meets traditional weaving. The brand’s sought-after range includes scarves, aprons, table, kitchen and bed linen, towels, and luxurious gowns. They’re made from natural-fibre textiles and are valued by people who seek quality and authenticity.

“It is an expensive product, and we recognise that,” says Mungo’s managing director, Dax Holding. “It’s expensive because of the way it’s made and the raw materials. We are the only GOTS-certified mill in southern Africa. That means there is a premium on the craft and doing business. We are very focused on sustainability and producing goods with integrity in a transparent manner.”

Holding is a seasoned entrepreneur. He joined the family business in 2011 but Mungo launched in 1998 when his father and company founder, Stuart Holding, started using two restored antique looms to weave limited runs of beautiful homeware textiles from an old barn in Plettenberg Bay. Soon thereafter, demand outstripped supply and Mungo expanded production to a mill housed in an old dairy building a few kilometres away.

“Things have changed dramatically since I joined. Our one-man team has expanded to 100 people, and in 2017 we opened the Mungo Mill in Plettenberg Bay, near the original barn. We now have four retail outlets in South Africa, namely Plettenberg Bay, Cape Town CBD, Constantia and Johannesburg, and plan on opening another outlet in Stellenbosch. We also have websites dedicated to the USA and the EU,” says Holding.

Just like African Jacquard, Mungo is to be found inside a characterful building: this one is a four-storey 19th-century heritage building. While there have been changes over the years, the company’s designs are still influenced by heritage textiles. Holding Senior is now semi-retired but still part of the business.

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Mungo Sahara Stripe Cushion Covers
Mungo Sahara Stripe Cushion Covers.

“My father is very passionate about textiles and calls himself ‘a man of the cloth’. We draw inspiration from that and what we see in the market and redevelop for our purposes. We have about 16 looms which range from the oldest loom from the 1890s, during the Industrial Revolution and looms from the 1950s, 70s and 80s. We are very versatile and unique in that respect. We can take the design and fit it to the loom and design for the machinery. With us, the designing comes through the manufacturing process, and they speak to each other. It’s not something anyone can emulate,” says Holding.

He believes if they stick to their values they will continue to thrive. “If we show that we are making good quality products and in a better way, it won’t ever go out of fashion, and we are never going to run out of customers,” he says.

78 Hout St | www.mungo.co.za

IMAGES: CCID, Mungo, African Jacquard