Celebrating Joburg fashion designer Maria McCloy

Johannesburg – We celebrate hard workers and applaud Joburg-based designer, Maria McCloy who started out making earrings and now works with international brands.

This journalist by training and entertainment culture industry publicist has always loved African adornment, style, and fashion.

“I have always followed Fashion Weeks and bought magazines, I’ve always been into global and local street culture and style, so it was natural that in 2007 I began collaborating on earrings with Ntate David Makoae who I met in the market when I was home in Maseru, I brought them back to Joburg and everyone loved them,” McCloy said.

“I added vintage clothes to what I sold at markets in Joburg and in 2010 when I started selling at Maboneng’s Market On Main I created a wax print clutch and soon after that wax print shoes – those items put me on the map as a designer I ended up in all the magazines and was even on CNN and did a Tedex Talk because of how I interpreted African prints,” McCloy further added.

I didn’t train in design but I work with people who make my fashion dreams and ideas come true. I stocked at Market on Main in 2017 and in 2017 and 2018, 2019 I was honoured to be part of Thula Sindis African design emporium Africa Rise.

Over the years I received a lot of guidance years from fashion friends and icons like designer Marianne Fassler, Felipe Mazibuko and Thula Sindi and the shoe factories I work with have taught me a great deal too.  I am always at Kwa Mai Mai market and embroidered and bag makers in town collaborating,” McCloy said on her journey.

Maria McCloy.
Maria McCloy.

SURVIVING COVID

In 2020 over lockdown I started to spend a lot of time at my friend and another fashion legend Ephymol AKA Ephrain Molingoana’s studio, and he suggested if I have ideas, his studio staff can make them for me! Wow!

He took me to all the tailors and cloth and trimmings suppliers with him, I consider myself his intern even though I’m 45! One must stay learning new things in life, I love it!

The result was my dashiki-inspired embroidered tracksuits, t-shirts and puffa jackets that people adore! I also create denim jackets with xhosa umbaco cloth and beadwork, and in a nod to my own heritage, Basotho blanket bomber jackets too.’’

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BUY LOCAL?

Local is lekker because, since eternity African style and design, creativity and skill has been amazing. Put your finger on any country on the African map and there is wonderful ancient and modern culture to draw from. So the same goes for SA.

WHERE ARE YOU AVAILABLE AND WHY?

SA is bursting with talent, we see this in street style and at the numerous fashion weeks, the problem is the financial backing needed for designers to scale up and to have stores.

Thula Sindi is so brave and courageous to start a store like Africa Rise that works as a collective, with 20 or so designers in the mix. Me included of course.

It is most important to have access to market, to sell and then produce more, I am greatful for this. I do think it is a shame that when you step in our chain stores none of them stock local brands, that is how it should www.africariseonline.co.za.

WHAT’S YOUR MOST EXCITING COLLABORATION?

I recently collaborated with Lucky Star on a limited edition range of earrings and this month on tracksuits and puffa jackets in fresh colours and new embroidery – you can win the limited edition items on their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages.

I loved this opportunity because Lucky Star is an iconic African brand, everyone recognizes the tin and its colours and of course that iconic star.

I’m also a grown-up street kid, I live in Yeoville and spend most of my time in town it is so inspiring and talent-filled….the walls of spaza shops in town and townships always feature a Lucky Star tin and I love when street style and high-end fashion collide.

I love the reds and pinks and the new luminous green tin too. How cool to have my logo next to their logo in this range! I hope the next step is to make a cloth that looks like seshoeshoe and/ or wax print and to make a sneaker with it, that is a very tasty idea and would be super dope.

Maria McCloy.
Maria McCloy.

Who is your client?

I have customers from all walks of life, of all ages and backgrounds and that thrills me because my aesthetic is about people wearing African inspired style every day, everywhere and getting away from the idea that it is only for weddings and heritage day.

Which famous people have worn your brand?

Famous people who have owned items by me over the years include Thandiswa, Azania Mosaka, Lira, Unathi Nkayi, Lupita Nyongo, Michael B Jordan, Loyiso Bala, Sthandiwe Kgorohe, and Renate Stuurman.

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