Established only a couple of years ago, Sol-Sol has already positioned itself as a promising label worth keeping an eye on. Focusing on fabric and fit, the garments are crafted to create casual, smart streetwear. Caps, T-shirts and raincoats are key items, responding to transitional weather with a skate-inspired style. We talk to founder Mathew Kieser to find out about how it all started.
What are the origins of Sol-Sol?
I started working on Sol-Sol in 2013, when I became extremely disillusioned with my job at the time and also with the products that were available in South Africa. There were things myself and friends wanted and couldn't get locally. Also, with South Africa's insane import duties on clothing, buying online from overseas was just too heavy. I had always wanted to do my own line, and years before I had a small T-shirt line, so the time just seemed right, since I had some sort of knowledge of how production and sales worked, I had made some good contacts with reputable manufacturers, and just decided to go with it – essentially just making clothes that I really wanted to wear.
What were you inspired by when you started the label?
There are always lots of different inspirations with doing something like this, I guess. Mine were quite varied, from growing up skating and surfing to then working on clothing and appreciating better, well-made clothing. My dad was in construction, and I worked on site for a while and always appreciated workwear designed for being built tough. I've also been fortunate enough to travel regularly with my other job, so seeing looks and people from all over the world also left a mark on me. I guess it's just a massive mash up of all these different things, mixed up into somehow toned down pieces.
“It's hard to use some fabrics and trims, as the price point becomes unrealistic. But it forces me to find other options to make a piece of clothing great.”
Has the brand been influenced by Durban, your hometown in South Africa?
Yes, definitely. I grew up in Durban surfing, skateboarding and playing football with my friends. Most days were spent on the beach and I think it's natural that all that would influence the brand in some way or another. Durban is such a cool city, it's quite small in terms of the creative scene in South Africa, and tiny on an international scene. But there are really talented people there doing great stuff, and it’s really inspiring when you see friends out of the same smallish city as me who are making movies in New York and Hong Kong. I’ve since moved to Cape Town on the West Coast –which is amazing–, but Durban is special to me, for sure.
What do you think is most important in creating basic menswear pieces?
I am actually still trying to figure that out. I spend hours fussing about the size of a button or the cut of the hem or the shade of the colour, just for someone to look at the garment and ask if it comes with a hood or without a zip. For me, though, it's definitely the fabric and the cut of the garment. With home base being in South Africa –where a disposable income isn’t really a thing–, it's hard for me to realistically use the fabrics and trims I would sometimes like to use, as the price point becomes unrealistic. But it's not a complaint from me; it forces me to find other options to make a piece of clothing great. Also, in the greater scheme of the clothing world there is so much emphasis on “perceived value” that making toned down more basic pieces sometimes becomes a tough sell. But I wouldn’t change it; I like the clothes we make. And the more we start trading internationally and build our brand at home, people are starting to look at our stuff more seriously, which is cool.
Sol-Sol is very newly established, yet it is already all over the globe. What challenges have you met in the process of creating an international brand?
Well, we are trying to get all over the globe, still have a way to go, but thanks (laughs). I think it's tough in general for any brand, but coming from a country at the base of Africa and trying to reach customers in Asia and Europe, when there are other fantastic brands from those regions, it's just a little tougher. It's not like you are based in London and the whole of Europe is a train ride away, or you are in Hong Kong and most of Asia is a short flight away. We are a long flight away down here and I feel a lot of the world maybe doesn’t take us seriously in the fashion/clothing area. So there are difficulties, but I think that's with anything in life. We have been really lucky in some regards with some key people and stores putting some faith in us and taking a chance whether it is stocking our brand in their stores, posting our work on their websites, or representing us as an agency. So, yeah, at the moment we are really excited for the future.
SOL-SOL is also exclusively available at Hostem in London.
Sol Solmenswear Metalmagazine 1.jpg
Sol Solmenswear Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Sol Solmenswear Metalmagazine 4.jpg
Sol Solmenswear Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Sol Solmenswear Metalmagazine 5.jpg