THE BACKSTORY: The shoes are produced by a heritage family-run factory, with 20 years in the shoe manufacturing industry behind it, and its primary background in dancewear and dance footwear.
BEHIND THE BRAND: Their handcrafted shoes are designed by founder and creative director, Jinae Heyns and is run in partnership with her husband, Christiaan Heyns.
THE AESTHETIC: Matsidiso Shoes is inspired by the beautiful diversity of pan- African cultures and uses vibrant colours and textures to meld them into their shoe designs in a modern way.
What is the background story behind Matsidiso shoes?
Matsidiso, typically spelled as Matshidiso, was the name given to my mother-in-law growing up in The Free State. She was born after her mother’s miscarriage, and thus the name given to her which means ‘comfort after something difficult’, like a condolence.
I loved this name instantly, because it still held the South African inspired heritage that our shoes are meant to symbolize and are designed after. To me it means overcoming and being resilient despite many tragedies or difficult stages of life. To us it means to see hope around every corner.
The idea of a fashion shoe brand wasn’t really a new one within the company. So there I was, totally naïve but incredibly passionate about the new space I found myself in. It has helped me significantly to have a strong understanding of marketing and branding to get Matsidiso launched, but the learning curve over the last year and a half has been in mental health and entrepreneurship in general, especially within the manufacturing sector where we are heavily tied into the process.
I am SO excited about our ethical luxury bag range. It felt like the right time to introduce something new, and handbags are very complimentary to shoes. However, finding the right relationship with a manufacturer has been the key.
About a year ago I met Jutta who is an independent designer and has been creating luxury bags alongside a trust of women in Cape Town. She co-creates with a very select group of small, independent designers around the world. The factory needed to pay fair wages have excellent working conditions, impeccable quality and the materials ethically sourced locally.
How would you describe your target market?
The majority of our market is women. Most of our market tends to be women ages 25-50 who really want to stand out, who care about keeping jobs locally and want transparency in how their shoes are made. I love the movement towards sustainable and ethical fashion. We so appreciate the difficult questions from customers about sourcing, our process, etc. That openness is so important, and from it we’ve built incredible relationships with many of our customers. We feel like we get to make shoes for friends! It’s very rewarding.
What is Matsidiso shoes inspired by?
Pan-African cultures and heritage. They are hopefully able to symbolize the diversity in South African and African countries and tell a story of beauty and luxury that exists here. Our biggest hope is that through our platform and shoes, we can create a community and bring people together in celebration of different identities, and to discuss the importance of local and ethically made products in SA.
What is the process behind handcrafting your shoes?
Once a pattern has been made for a new design, our shoes start with our fabrics and
leathers. The Xolani fabrics are hand printed in house by one of our local suppliers.
Leather is a sensitive subject- especially given the vegan movement which I also believe in and we will get there in the long-term. However, it is important to understand from small business perspective that high qualities alternatives that do not include plastics or environmentally damaging chemicals, and also match your brand identity are not easy to come by. We are looking at Pinatex in the near future but it is 37 euros per square metre which would mean we would need to charge R4000+ to ensure we are making our mark-ups to sustain the factory.
This side note is important to mention because we do get asked about vegan, but our objective at the moment is creating a safe, happy work environment and employ people who really need the work as fast as we can, all while using the absolute best materials that are locally sourced in an ethical manner that are affordable for the local market.
From sourcing we move onto our team. We have a team of 12 that cut every single component of the shoes. From there, our dispatch manager carefully packages the shoes with an up cycled fabric bag for the shoes, and out the door they go to our dear customers and are worn for years with love.
Much is the same with the bag range process. The major difference is that Jutta and I sit together and plan colours / concepts before the bags are put into production.. Every aspect of the bag is planned to perfection- whether by us or by the customer.
In your opinion, has the shoe and accessory industry in South Africa grown
Unfortunately, I see it going backwards. Factories are really struggling. Especially in the Western Cape, we have seen three prominent factories close within a very short time span, each employing nearly 300+ people. Because footwear jobs are so niche, often the knock and effect is that these employees from the closed factories have nowhere to go to find work.
BUT I have a ton of hope, because at the same time I see lots of small niche footwear and bag brands popping up all over. I think that small business with smaller controlled batches and small teams is going to be the way forward. At least the skills can remain alive and well within these small teams, and possibly more diversified because small business typically means cross-training and up skilling. There are some amazing people in the footwear industry that really care and want to see it grow again.
What can we expect from Matsidiso shoes in 2019?
More colours and more textures!! We are just about to roll out a new range and I cannot
wait. In our first one and a half years of business, we’ve spent a lot of time learning about how to make fashion shoes
from a primarily dance-wear construction which was a big transition, but now we are exploring a
lot more with our design and nailing down our actual identity that sets us apart from the rest.… so stay tuned!
Written by: Olwethu Ngodela