From A-lines to hemlines, seams to stitches, in this article, we provide a runway for these local mums to showcase their brilliant creations. You won’t need to go to Paris to find something utterly unique – we have a few options closer to home.

If you are not a fashionista, you might not know the French term haute couture, which means “high sewing”. It is pronounced almost like “oot koeture”, and you have to say it with a French accent for emphasis and a giggle!

All jokes aside, though, haute couture refers to one-of-a-kind and handmade clothing items. It may be more related to high-end fashion and was started by Charles Frederick Worth during the 1800s.

He moved from England to Paris and became known as one of the first fashion designers. The term is also copyrighted, and under strict laws in Paris, only certain fashion houses are allowed to operate as haute couture. However, the term couture has been used more fluidly. It means “sewing” or “dressmaking”.

Now that you know a little more about this French fashion term, let’s spotlight a few of our own local labels producing exclusive clothing pieces. Maybe it’s not something you would expect in the Midlands, typically known as a place where you go for a nice long Sunday drive or a delicious pizza or coffee. Well, be sure to fit in a fitting too, maybe before the pizza?

In line with our Mother’s Day theme, a few talented local ladies are creating beautiful clothing lines. They are either moms themselves or make items fit for moms. Meet Jane Sakwa. She started Stitches from Africa, a clothing and accessories business, sewing gift items for her family and friends as a hobby. Still, it eventually turned into her full-time “hussle”.  

Jane wears most of the hats in her business. She is the designer, seamstress, manageress, and saleswoman. She has received gracious support from her family, friends, and clients and feels equal gratitude to them throughout her business’s growth.

What motivated and inspired her to start Stitches from Africa, which she has been running for a year now, was a gap in the market, what her customers wanted, and her own fashion tastes and love for African print fabrics.

Her material is sourced from various outlets in Pietermaritzburg and other African countries. The African print fabric ranges from Kitenge, Shweshwe, Ankara, and Kikoy, which are all 100% cotton.

She can make custom designs and market them to anyone. Her styles include dresses, women’s tops, unisex lounge pants, shorts for men and women, jumpsuits and rompers for younger adults, sarongs purses and toiletry bags.

Jane mentions that her designs are “bold but minimalist”, and she believes that with “simple but elegant designs, you achieve perfection”. She also works diligently to ensure she provides good-quality hand-stitched garments. Her designs allow freedom of movement to look good and be equally comfortable for any occasion and time of year. (Email)


Anuschka Kendall, otherwise known as “Noosh”, started Cactus & Co. during the lockdown in her mother-in-law’s sewing room. The latter is, according to Noosh, a very talented seamstress and got her going with her sewing.

To begin with, she made several plain and comfortable hoodies. It didn’t take long for word to spread, and before she knew it, she needed help. She employed an amazing Malawian CMT (Cut, Make, Trim), rented a small space, and Cactus & Co. was born.

Noosh struggled to find comfortable, full-length, non-cropped, and non-animated clothing for her “in-betweens”, meaning her nine and 11-year-old. She says, “I was tired of being disappointed every time I went shopping for my tweens, so I wanted to create a brand that services the tweens that have outgrown Disney characters but are not quite ready for adults’ clothing”.

Noosh is all about supporting locals and sources most of her fabrics this way; she has a great relationship with local suppliers. She is not a huge fan of mass production (overproduction) and aims to keep her brand sustainable and authentic. Her clothes are all made in Howick with a small wonderful team in production.

She does all the designing, fabric sourcing, social media marketing, stock control, photography, bookkeeping, and everything else that goes with running one’s own business. Noosh loves creating cool functional clothes, and her daughter, Tannah, is great at advising her on what the tweens of today want.

Cactus & Co. has since opened a little space at Piggly Wiggly, tucked between the coffee shop and that little French shop. There is also a small space at The Ellenbird in Hilton and an online shop.  (Website)


Nadine Grobler is the “madame” behind Madame Butterfly clothing, inspired by beautiful fabrics. You may have noticed her shop at the Old Mushroom Farm. This is not Grobler’s first clothing shop, though, she started in 2010 in Rosebank, and then she opened her flagship shop in 2014 in Clarens, and during 2018 she moved it to the Midlands, opening in Nottingham Road and then Old Mushroom Farm during 2021.

With a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design, Grobler started her clothing line as a one-woman show. She describes herself as the production team. She handmakes each item, cutting and sewing it at her studio in Clarens for her Clarens and Howick branches. She also accepts custom orders.

Apart from handmaking each item and sourcing her material from a small, family-owned haberdashery shop since 2007, Grobler also sources all her in-store accessories and other apparel locally.

Madame Butterfly caters to women of every age, and Grobler prides herself on designing one-off pieces, dresses that are easy to wear but with that touch of style and elegance. Her love for good-quality fabrics underpins this.

Additionally, Madame Butterfly aims to expand production, continuously improve the quality of all the items, and develop the website so that anyone, countrywide, can place online orders. Grobler’s fabric ranges change every month as well as her designs. She tries to add new pieces with every launch. So, Madame Butterfly will certainly have something unique for you for all the mums out there. (Website)


May-Flower Clothing is owned by Jacolene May, who is based in Hilton. She started sewing from an early age, learning from her mother, making and selling Barbie doll clothes, and later girls’ fairy dresses. The flowers and floral detailing became the inspiration for the name.

When Jacolene moved from the Western Cape to Hilton a few years ago, she partnered with  Vanessa Raw under Mist & May-Flower, making various items like tops, dresses, ponchos, and pants. However, in 2020 May-Flower launched its own online shop and rebranded it as May-Flower Clothing.

Although Jacolene chooses all the fabrics, which are locally sourced, she has a formidable team of ladies behind her who cuts, overlocks, hems, labels, checks, and tags each item upon completion. She calls on her community of friends like photographers and graphic designers to assist her in managing the marketing aspects of her business.

The clothing items through May-Flower are made for children and adults, ranging from dresses to pyjamas. Items are sold all over South Africa and available through outlets like The Ellenbird in Hilton. (Website)


Hedgerow has been around for over 20 years, starting as a country shop on Highfield Farm in Nottingham Road by Tinks Robinson. Still, it expanded and developed Hedgerow Clothing, co-owned by Robinson and Kath Mckenzie. It is a country clothing range partly inspired by the owners’ children, Annabel, Dominic, and Gina.

The clothing range includes exclusively designed prints and fabrics are 100% cotton flannel, which was initially sourced from Zimbabwe and South Africa, but due to various fluctuations in the clothing industry, fabrics are now imported. However, it is manufactured locally, with Kath making all the patterns and samples.

The prints are inspired by many creatures, insects, and flowers found in hedgerows, hence the name, and various artists have contributed to creating these unique designs. Items range from everyday wear to pyjamas targeted at an upmarket, quality-conscious, and natural fibre-loving clientele.

Hedgerow clothing has also stood the test of time, with some families passing down items from one child to another. Not only is it comfortable but also durable. The comfortable clothing range is not only loved locally and around South Africa but has found its way to England and America.

Hedgerow Clothing is available at the Freerange store at Piggly Wiggly and is available online through their website. (Website)

With features in magazines like Nubian Bride and affiliations with Miss SA, Mrs SA, and an Arthur Kaplan marketing campaign, Julene Olivier Couture is owned and run by Julene Olivier. She earned her diploma in fashion design from the University of Johannesburg and gained valuable experience working with a designer and making dresses for private clients in her free time.

She eventually started her clothing business from her flat in Randburg, Johannesburg, in January 2015 under the name Fleur Atelier, and in 2017 she opened her own studio in Linden, also based in Johannesburg.

When Julene moved to Balgowan, here in the Midlands, in 2021, she rebranded her clothing line to Julene Olivier Couture and opened up a shop in Howick. She’s made hundreds of beautiful dresses thus far, specialising in special events like school dance dresses, bridal wear, and evening wear; she also has dresses to rent.

Julene’s mission and inspiration are to not only make beautiful dresses but to empower women to feel beautiful in their own skin. She describes herself as a “conduit for their soul to shine in material form”. Furthermore, for Julene, happiness is a dress’s “greatest accessory”, so she makes each dress with this as the main aim.

The dressmaking process starts with the consultation with the client and then taking the measurements. Julene then drafts patterns for her clients and fittings until the dress fits perfectly. She sources her material from various places in South Africa, and she strictly expects twirls or happy dances as the end result, knowing the client is happy with the fitting.

Julene’s goal is to focus on growing her shop in Howick, to design and create dresses for as many women as she can here in the Midlands.

juleneoliviercouture (Facebook)