Soweto style-setters the Smarteez have been feted for their colourful,  street-savvy fashion. Now that the collective is breaking into the world of decor too, we chatted to one of  its core members, Kepi Mngomezulu.

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Designers, trendsetters, artists or fashionistas…what are the Smarteez?

We’re celebrated as the ‘new cool’. The Smarteez change mind-sets, reviving the old to make it appeal to the new age. We’ve earned and maintained a reputation of style, and with it comes street credibility.

How would you describe that style?

Playful, spontaneous, edgy, colorful, vintage-meets-new.

What does it mean to be a Smartee?

It’s about free will, doing what we want in a smart way. People who like our work share our principle of individualism.

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Colour is a big part of your look. Is it the new black?

It wasn’t intentional but when we’re together, the thing that stands out is colour – so that’s what it’s become. Colour is free and fun and there’s so much of it, so why not make use of it? We’re expanding our line to include furniture and decor items, such as lamps and cushions. We wanted to match our personal spaces to the Smarteez look, using materials we’d usually use in our fashion designs. Pieces will be created for aesthetic rather than practical function, with a mix of fabric offcuts combined with vintage furniture, ceramics,  plastic, wood, boning and whatever other household objects we find and can repurpose.

Smarteez style has an inherent, irreverent sense of humour. So what makes you laugh?

We make each other laugh all the time at the things around us, particularly everyday, ‘normal’ clothing. The fun of turning fashion and decor on its head is reflected in our designs.

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What’s hot right now?

African jazz and vocals from northern Africa – such as famous Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, his son, Femi Kuti, Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour and Césaria Évora from the CapeVerde Islands. Any music that’s experimental, genre-defying and made by the youth for all ages. We’re listening to M.I.A, British DJ Mr Scruff, Gazelle and BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness).

And what’s not?

The state of South African politics – it’s harming our country’s image. Although one advantage is that it’s making young people pay attention and get their opinions out there.

Favourite style icons?

Anna Piaggi, OutKast’s Andre 3000 and celebrity hairstylist David Gilson.

Who would The Smarteez love to style?

Local celebs Pam Andrews and DJ Sbu who give South Africa a bad name with their copycat dress sense, and politicians such as Helen Zille and Patricia de Lille whose style needs to match their promises – maybe then people will take them seriously. Designer Thula Sindi, PatriceMotsepe, Rebecca Malope and Amy Winehouse could also do with style makeovers.

Whose homes would you love to visit?

Jamiroquai, because of his car and sneaker collections, reality TV star Kim Kardashian and Mr Fashion himself, Tom Ford.

Must-haves this winter?

Warm earmuffs, a scooter and a vuvuzela. Style-wise, South Africa needs more……Independence, confidence and belief in local designs.

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Best places in Jozi to

……Party?

Soweto all the way – at places such as Rockafella, The Rock pub and TS jam session.

…Eat?

Yung Chen Noodle Den on Commissioner Street

….Chill?

Nowhere beats Ko’Spotong and Sophiatown, both in Newtown.

…Shop?

Downtown CBD – old furniture stores in President Street and Bree Street’s second-hand clothing shops.


This article is written by Lin Murray, and originally featured in the Issue 70 of ELLE Decoration