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Interview: Bundu & Bison

Aloof aims to shine a light on the best brands and companies operating in the independent market right now, from all over the world. Those under the radar of the wider consciousness but with great stories to tell and a unique perspective on the nuts and bolts of building a brand.

As is so often the case, our first impression of this brand was formed through social media. Bundu & Bison are a company with South African roots, now based out in Portugal. As we know, social media rarely tells the full story, and with Bundu this was absolutely the case. With ethical practices at the heart of what they do, Bundu upcycle vintage sportswear and African textiles that pay homage to their beginnings, whilst updating them for the contemporary wearer. With lots to talk about it, we grabbed founder Dane to find out some more.

Aloof Studio (AS): Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?

Bundu & Bison (BB:) My name is Dane, and I am the owner of sustainable streetwear label Bundu & Bison. I am South African born, living full-time on the silver coast of Portugal in my camper van, working remotely from co-working spaces wherever the wind blows me.

AS: Bundu & Bison is all about ethical practices, whether that’s upcycling old sportswear into headwear, or, working with a company that empowers Ghanaian immigrants through work. Did you start the company with those ideas in place, or did they come about during the process of setting up?

BB: To be honest, it didn't start with the ethical ideals in mind, but as I grew as a person I realised the role that I wanted to play, in terms of my everyday life regarding a sustainable lifestyle, so it naturally played out into all of my business practices. That said, working alongside African born & based artisans was a fundamental idea from the get go.

AS: Your motto is ‘Third World Deluxe Goods.’ Now considered to be an outdated term, is there a conscious thought process as to why you chose to use 'Third World' as opposed to 'Developing World'?

BB: When I use the term “Third World” I am referring to the rawness of everyday life within the South Africa that I grew up in. The unpolished, impoverished state of affairs that is apparent from the ground level, however, lined with beauty, hope & progress.

Through the phrase 'Third World Deluxe Goods', I'm attempting to pay homage to the grass roots businesses, the one stop shops, the illegal township bars, the make shift mechanics, chop shops, the general survival tactics & hustle of everyday life within the confines of a developing country. Almost a “Do what you gotta do” mentality becomes apparent.

AS: It took 5 years from initial conception to developing your first item. What was the process up to that point when you put out your first hat?

BB: I had a previous outerwear label that I initially started before boiling my ideas down into something that made sense to me. The outerwear label crashed & burned eventually due to severe lack of experience & knowledge. Many mistakes & lessons were learned! I started Bundu on the back end of the downward spiral of that outerwear label, so it took me a little longer to recuperate funds & solidify ideas, hence the gap between conception and creation.

AS: You’re originally from South Africa and are now based in Portugal. Is Bundu & Bison a way for you to stay connected with your roots?

BB: I guess it's all that I knew at that age of my life when I started Bundu, so it made sense to go down that route, to look at my upbringing and surroundings as I saw them, put them on paper & weave them through designs.

AS: How would you describe South African style to someone not familiar with that aesthetic? Does Vintage Sportswear play a part?

BB: It's a melting pot of all sorts of people & aesthetics, so it's hard to place it. It varies between vibrancy, flamboyance, minimal & beach-inspired.

African wax cotton is an integral part of Bundu, which clearly shows off the vibrant aspect of South Africa as a whole, a very traditional cloth that we use to bridge the gap between cultural & current. Vintage sportswear plays a certain role when it comes to our various capsule collections. The idea behind working with, sourcing & repurposing vintage, comes into play with the mentality of using whatever we find & not throwing anything away.

AS: Your blog highlights the mistakes you made along the way prior to setting up Bundu & Bison. Transparency is key to your business and your blog even gives advice on how to start your own brand. When you started out, did you feel like you had the help you needed in order to navigate the various aspects of clothing production?

BB: I was naïve & thought that if you had a good product that it would sell. Ignorance & lack of understanding is a recipe for disaster! The fundamentals of the business need to be in place before you take the leap into any unknown areas of life or business. I didn't reach out enough when I started the outerwear label, which was one of the main reasons it failed. With Bundu, I did everything differently.

AS: Something that’s noticeable about your range of hats, is that they all share the 5-panel style. Have there been attempts with other shapes in the past or plans to look at different styles in the future?

BB: We just launched our first 6 panel range with a lot more of this style in the pipeline. As well as bucket hats, corduroy is something that has both ours and the world's attention at the moment.

AS: As someone of African heritage, how do you feel when people from outside the continent use traditional African textiles in their work? A visible example would be the use of African patterns on the Nike Black History Month shoes from the last couple of years.

BB: I love it! But, make sure that the actual cloth that's used, is of African origin. “Credit where credit is due” rings true here. A lot of these textiles are being reprinted in Europe & China, yet zero commission reaches the original birth place of the prints. This needs to change.

AS: Graphically you’re drawn to African signage, advertising and typography. What is it about them that appeals to you? How do you channel this into creating something that is unique to you?

BB: It's referring back to the grassroots businesses based within South Africa & Africa as a whole. The roughness & hustle of these shops in general appeal to me greatly and are an integral part of Bundu. A huge source of inspiration comes from them. We aim to pay homage to them in a bold yet playful way.

AS: Bundu & Bison are, in all senses, a global brand. Informed by various cultures and made using fabrics and processes from different corners of the world. With the Internet and social media key to this, and such an easy way to access information, is there a place you don’t feel influenced by? Anywhere you’d like to visit and explore?

BB: Creating the opportunity for myself to personally handpick fabrics from vendors in North & West Africa would be a mega privilege. This year I'm buying a 4x4 & taking the ferry to Morocco, driving and camping both inland and on the coastline and sourcing goods from artisanal suppliers. It's the first step to this dream coming true.

AS: What can we expect to see in the near future from Bundu & Bison?

BB: A recent psychedelic excursion really solidified what the term “roots” means to me & Bundu moving forward. You can expect a lot of earth tones coupled with bold cultural references, homage to the hustle, & yet simultaneously, a strong homage to our planet.

Headwear heavy collections as usual, whilst weaving in organic garments alongside a handful of handmade accessories. Very excited to showcase what we have been working on.

See for yourself what Bundu & Bison are all about on their Instagram here, and their website here.


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