27 years old and from Durban, Mathew Kieser works full time with his wife who together supply and manufacture clothing for a number of large South African retailers. Last year he began working on his own menswear label ‘SOL-SOL’, which specialises in good quality and well-made basics, and things are now starting to gain momentum for the brand.
To find out more, we asked Mathew a few questions about his journey so far and SOL-SOL’s latest range.
Have you always had an interest in fashion?
I think it would be more of an interest in clothing and in particular menswear, more than fashion. It started from a real interest in art and design and then moving those designs from paper or the screen to t-shirts, which evolved to becoming more interested in the actual fit and construction of garments, and now it involves everything from the back neck label to how the lookbook is shot.
When did you decide to finally take the plunge and begin your own menswear label, SOL-SOL?
I tried doing t-shirts before with Iammonster a couple of years ago with a little success, but stopped halfway through my third run when I received my production and all the prints were completely wrong. It couldn’t be saved and that was almost 10k in the toilet. That was it for me, I just got over it completely, and it happened at the same time that my full-time job became really hectic so I put everything on hold.
Then I started working in clothing and dealing with really good reliable manufacturers, and about 3 years later I started working on SOL-SOL. My brother Jared and one of my really good friends Carl both live in Seoul, South Korea and towards the beginning of last year they started up the SOL-SOL street style blog. Later when I was in Seoul with them chatting about the line I wanted to start, someone was like, “yo call it sol-sol, we will all be in this big team together and do all these rad various things under this umbrella“, so we have big plans and hopefully we’re on the right track to achieving them.
You launched SOL-SOL on Skillshare, after being chosen as 1 of 10 brands for a workshop with Jeff Staple in New York. What was the experience like?
I was well on my way with developing SOL-SOL, when that popped up out of the blue. I’d been following Jeff’s movements for a couple years so that and the competition drew me in. From the time I signed in I was hooked. There were like 50 brands on it by that time and you could see everyone’s work and stories and you were able to connect with these guys and ask each other questions.
Skillshare is seriously a game changer with regards to learning; not just clothing but websites, typography, packaging…everything! Everyone should at least check it out.
How would you describe the style or aesthetic of the label?
SOL-SOL is essentially just my take on men’s basic pieces. It seems more minimal from the outside, but the pieces contain small hidden details here and there. Someone on the Skillshare site described it as ‘smart street wear’ which I really like.
What are you inspired by?
I pretty much get my inspiration everywhere – obviously the internet is the most accessible and is immense in content. But I’m also fortunate to travel a fair bit with work to both Europe and the East, which, mixed in with just hanging around Durban and cruising around the streets seeing different people and places is all great for inspiration.
What is important to you when it comes to the actual making of the garments, and the fabrics and materials used?
I love the manufacturing process; it’s important to me that things are made well and made to last, and that the people making them understand the garments they are making. I’ve spent a lot of time with that and also with the fabrics I’m using – the pants/shorts and jackets in particular. It’s quite hard at the moment for me as my units are really small, so it’s hard to get my hands on the really good stuff!
How do you plan to grow SOL-SOL in the year to come?
I’m excited for the year ahead, I just want things to grow organically. I want to get into some cool stores both in SA and overseas and grow it to a stage where I can do more units and essentially make better and more technical products. Also, I’m really hoping the Skillshare competition comes through, as that will take me to the Agenda Tradeshows which will hopefully be good. I’m working hard and holding thumbs.
Could you tell us a bit more about your new range and what has influenced it?
My new range is pretty small and by the standards of ‘normal ranges’, pretty odd. I have shorts along with sweaters/jackets and beanies. I’m trying to cater for South Africa and overseas whose seasons are obviously opposite each other. But it’s my first proper range and hopefully I can iron out these things as I move forward.
Essentially, it is a clean and smart street wear look. I’ve stuck to quite a basic plain colour palette, where each piece fits with each other. I want to make a clothes so a dude can buy one piece and it works well with everything he has, or a guy can buy a full range and it also works well.
Where can people purchase the pieces?
Currently people can purchase through my online store. It’s all in US dollars and some people are freaked out by that, but the price equates back to Rands. We are also at the Loading Store in Hong Kong which is personally very cool for me, as I often used to go lurk around in there when in Hong Kong and check out the products, and now my shit is in there. We’re also in talks with some Cape Town stores, I need to get my product on the ground there. Durban people can buy the items directly from me. Any JHB stores out there?!