A journey that started in Stellenbosch University’s Metanoia residence in 2017 has culminated in an invitation to attend Agenda Las Vegas, a streetwear tradeshow in the USA in 2021.
Stellenbosch University (SU) graduate Abdu-Shakoer Baderoen and his two best friends Chad Mockey (also an SU alumnus) and Ethan Beukes conceptualised and established the brand BRAhSSE while they were still students.
Baderoen graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing in 2018, while Mockey obtained his BA degree in Geography and Environmental Studies in 2019. Beukes studies at the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography.
According to Baderoen, they started BRAhSSE to make a meaningful contribution to post-apartheid South Africa by creating a clothing and accessories brand that celebrates unity in diversity.
"Brasse is the slang word we use for friends in the Cape coloured community," says Baderoen. To differentiate their brand from the original word, they inserted a lowercase h in the middle, which stands for heritage.
"Our brand represents a fresh, authentic and honest reflection of contemporary South African culture."
Street fashion offers the opportunity to use what you have to express yourself, he explains. Some of their designs are inspired by the colours of the Bo-Kaap and the 'Klopse' and popular items include bucket hats, T-shirts and hoodies. In 2018, BRAhSSE formed a collaboration with the soft drink brand Jive to use BRAhSSE clothing in Jive’s advertising and promotional material.
Every now and again they also create an item to encourage critical engagement about certain issues. Last year they released a T-shirt with the image of a gun shooting flowers, to initiate conversations about issues like gang violence. When COVID-19 hit, they started making masks too.
Baderoen comes from the Strand, where he matriculated from Gordon High School.
"I come from a disadvantaged background and stay with my single mother and my sister. When I came to Stellenbosch in 2014, I told myself to make the most of the opportunity that I got to study at Stellenbosch University and try my best to change my circumstances."
Baderoen was a resident and later house committee member of Metanoia, where he was exposed to a many people from different backgrounds, heritages and cultures.
"I made so many friends and learned a lot from them. This gave me the inspiration for the brand."
Baderoen and Mockey have not only built a business together – for the past few years they were also together on the rugby field as SU’s well-known mascot "Pokkel" and the Varsity Cup mascot "Prof".
"It’s been very special to contribute to the gees at Varsity Cup games, as well as people's happiness and enjoyment of the event. Pokkel and Prof were always up to something. We have some great memories," laughs Baderoen.
It’s been a tough journey for these young entrepreneurs. The business consumes all their free time but Baderoen can’t afford to leave his day job, as he has to support himself and his family. This has made it difficult for the young, small start-up to get funding from government sources.
"It’s been very hard to balance everything. Sometimes I want to give up," says Baderoen as his voice breaks. "But I think we also inspire other young people, and that makes me happy."
They are currently raising funds to attend the Agenda Las Vegas show in March next year.
"We want to go there and do business so that we can create employment and opportunities for other businesses here. We want to show the youth that anything is possible if you just go after your dreams and try your utmost best to make things happen. Hard work will forever be the key to success.
“We want to make BRAhSSE a proudly South African brand.”
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