The Future Of Fashion Is Genderless, Sustainable and Black: Get To Know The Brand, Owam

I met the creative duo over a Zoom meeting, and I was welcomed by the most pleasant and warm-hearted smiles from the best of friends who have incredible chemistry. We chatted about them, their personal backgrounds, and what their baby represents to them. OWAM was founded last year when they were unsure of what they wanted to do following the lockdown restrictions. They are presently being mentored by Celeste Arendse, the founder of SELFI, for the V&A Waterfront Artist Alliance Incubation Programme, where they discussed the challenges they encountered as non-binary creators of colour with a high-profile brand. OWAM, which means “mine” in isiXhosa, is a combination of their two names, and it also expresses how intimate the brand is to them and how they want people to love and own their ensembles.

Clean-cut, repurposed vintage aesthetics with a modern feel characterize this slow, sustainable, and minimalistic brand. “There is a constant battle with being a brand by people from the LGBTQ community, we take pride in ourselves for being inclusive, yet we struggle with ‘toning it down’. When we started the brand we were like not only does it needs to speak to the fashion lover, but it also needs to reach the average man. So in terms of how the stuff is put together, there was alot of that in mind,” they say.

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The founders of OWAM

Co-owner and creative director of OWAM, Anam Mhlwatika, from Makhanda in Eastern Cape, has a degree in retail clothing management and whose personal style is more in line with their brand. They were raised by a single mother who taught art and claim that being raised in a free home environment by a mother who understood the industry and allowed them to express themselves was what finally drove them to pursue their artistic interests and that Cape Town was the best place to exercise them. According to Anam, their current job is a stepping stone toward their brand’s apex, as well as the purpose for its existence and future ambitions.

Owethu Mentoor Bobotyane, a recent advertising graduate from Red and Yellow, currently works in the digital marketing sphere. They tell a heartwarming story about how they grew up playing with dolls and started sewing clothes for them and their cousins, and yet outside of the house, they were forced to conform to what it truly meant to be a “boy” and play soccer because they could not really come out and fully embrace their sexuality, gender identity, and express themselves in the way they intended. They add, “My love for fashion began when I began to realize who I was; I didn’t know who I was, and I felt complacent.” They believe that once Owethu accepted himself, fashion gravitated towards them. Owethu is also the founder of PoseZa, a fashion, and lifestyle blog that they established three years ago after dropping out of school, and which finally led them down this path.

What does the future for slow and sustainable fashion look like?

“We don’t want everyone to think they have to go the full way, we also want people to know it means taking something and giving it a spin. We basically recycle. The more mature we get, we want to uncover a path, we want to uncover what happened generationally, and this is another way of bringing back to life something from 50 years ago and bringing it in the now, making it modern and contemporary.”

What’s next for OWAM?

The creators are on the path to create a production house, that is more than just fashion, and rather encompasses all creative disciples, they plan to have a launch that introduces them to the world.

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