Unique and Upcycled in Cape Town: Meet Mee & The Moon
“Creativity is a vulnerable place, as you put your ideas and concepts of what’s good out there, and for some it isn’t immediately reciprocated. It can feel awfully disheartening. But if what you’re doing is something close to your heart and YOU believe in it then just keep pushing.”
Last March I spent some days in Cape Town, South Africa and had the privilege of meeting Gemma, the creative behind Mee & The Moon. We ran in to her and her booth at a little day festival and were instantly drawn to her and her unique creative vision and her up-cycled/reworked clothes. Each piece is totally unique and you can tell - are created from a place of love for textiles and fashion mixed with her passion for sustainability and eco-awareness. I’m so happy to introduce Gemma and her business, Mee & The Moon. Read on for insight in to her project, the ups and downs of her journey, inspiration, advice for other creatives and some fun tips about Cape Town.
Where are you based? How long has your brand been around?
Mee and The Moon is based in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s hard to say exactly how long our brand has been going as it’s been an ever-changing form and has seen a couple of different names and products since I started it.
What was your journey to starting Mee and The Moon?
I’ve been obsessed with clothing, textiles and accessories ever since I can remember. Growing up I didn’t have a lot of extra money to indulge myself in these things, so I had to come up with creative ways to get what I wanted. A lot of clothing was passed down to me or swapped with friends. I would often cut these up and re-fashion them or sew on details with very limited knowledge, so a lot of my clothing items were questionable looking.
Then in high school, around the 9th grade, I came across a small brand called Doll-house that photographed and sold second hand items in such a beautiful way that I was immediately taken by them and inspired. I bought from them regularly as their items were fashionable and still affordable. It took a little time, but one day I woke up and realized, why can’t I do the same thing?
I started researching immediately and locating all the charity and thrift stores near-by and started to purchase to re-sell. My favourite part was and still is thinking of all the ways I could style the shoots to show off the pieces in the best possible way and make them appealing. My business did okay, and I enjoyed it very much, but I got really busy with schoolwork and it kind of just dissolved into the background. I re-surfaced it about a year after high school as I had been living in Thailand and had acquired quite a few lovely second hand and new pieces from the country and that started the business off again. It was quite a hit.
From there I started importing clothes so I could I could sell to a more specific market with pieces I was really passionate about but that side of things didn’t last very long. Importing clothes into my country (South Africa) is really expensive as we have high import duties on textiles of about 70% of cost, which meant I would have to sell my products for a high price. I was also unable to properly assess the quality of the pieces I was importing and the impact they had on the environment as well as the social environment. I decided to discontinue that side of my business.
I felt a bit down about going forward from that point because it felt like every turn I wanted to take had some kind of mountain to climb. After about a year of being inactive I decided to ask a friend of mine’s mom , who had worked in the fashion industry, for sewing lessons. We worked together for about a year and I had gathered enough skills to start enjoying clothing and sewing creatively again. I started making a couple of pieces from scratch but found it time too time consuming and wasteful to make a profit of any kind for someone working alone. It was from here I decided to once again shop the thrift and second hand market for quality pieces with potential and breathe new life into them. I absolutely love it.
What kind of fabrics are you using and how are you incorporating sustainability in to your business?
Sustainability and eco-awareness is important to me personally and I couldn’t move forward business wise without knowing I’m doing my best to cut back, reduce, re-use and re-cycle. All of my clothing pieces are sourced as second-hand pieces, some never worn, and then updated with pieces of fabrics and scraps from a local haberdashery and fabric store. The haberdashery acquires all of their stock as unwanted fabrics with print errors, end of range pieces, slightly damaged etc. Almost all of their fabric would have been tossed or forgotten. And I get it at a great price which is just another benefit as fabrics in my country are expensive.
What is in the future for your brand?
This is a bit of a tough one to define as I’m not too sure. Currently, Mee an the moon is more of a passion project for me. I keep it running more for the love of art and creative expression than I do for money. I absolutely adore sourcing my pieces, and spending time re-imagining them and then working with my creative soul sister Jessie Exsteen photography to plan creative shoots. If I sell something it feels great knowing someone goes home with a little piece of art that no one else has and that alone keeps me going. I’m currently studying interior design and I hope to somehow merge the two together someday with the hopes of a store for both furnishings and my little clothing art pieces. I also would love my brand to branch out as a personal and industry stylist solution. I love shopping for and dressing people of all walks of life who feel they need a little extra help looking fabulous.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration is endless for me and especially in this day and age. I’m inspired by my travels and the cultures I’ve had the opportunities to mingle with. I sometimes enjoy creating scenes of landscapes with fabric. I would say when it comes to colour and colour choices I am heavily inspired by nature, sunsets, landscapes, birds etc.
I’m currently on a bit of a colour fiasco as you might pick up in my pieces but I’m usually more drawn to muted palettes of earthy tones.
I’m inspired by my own country’s rich and deep cultural history and connection to art. I spend hours browsing fashion and home décor magazines, Pinterest, Instagram and I am plenty inspired by so many of our local designers across the platforms. I would say our country is currently blooming in the creative side of things and I love it. My favourite Eras of inspiration would probably be the 70’s, 90’s and now. I also spend a lot of time listening to music of many genre’s and would say I pick up quite a bit of inspiration from the scene.
Do you have any advice for others wanting to start their own small creative business?
The only advice I could give is advice I wished I had taken. Creativity is a vulnerable place, as you put your ideas and concepts of what’s good out there, and for some it isn’t immediately reciprocated. It can feel awfully disheartening. But if what you’re doing is something close to your heart and YOU believe in it then just keep pushing. Your ideas are bound to resonate with a group of people out there it’s just a matter of waiting and consistently putting it out there.
As for the business side of things, I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your books tidy in order to make your business idea a success. Track every expense, assess every potential profit, time consumption and keep a record. Some idea’s are not always as profitable as you might have initially thought.
And a little fun…..
What are some of your favorite stores in Cape Town?
Oh man, where to start. Cape town is the design hub of South Africa. We have such a wide variety to choose from in this area. A lot of my personal favourites are small online’s such as myself who do pop-ups and markets. Yellow Jewellery is a great local jewellery store, Junk and Disorderly for thrifts and local designs, Blood orange, Kieffe Clothing for local slogan apparel, Coal Interiors for gorgeous Scandi inspired décor, Frankie the Store for their whimsical clothing items and Float Apparel for their cool surf/skate brand -locally made.
Are you reading or listening to anything good recently?
I don’t often find myself with spare time for book reading, mostly magazines and online articles. As for music I am absolutely obsessed with Claire Laffut, a 24 year old Belgian French artist. I would describe her sound as French indie-pop. She’s just released her first EP. It’s delightful and I have it on repeat – even though I don’t understand a word.
One of my favourite bands would be The Growlers, a Californian beach-goth group. I would describe their sound as beachy grunge with a whimsical edge, I’ve watched their sound develop over the years and I love it. I’m also hugely fond of The Dø -a Finnish-French indie pop band. I particularly enjoy their track; A Take away show
Do you have a favorite bar/place to hang out in cape town?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a bit of a home-body and I stay in the more suburby side of Cape Town. If I do go out it’s mostly my local bars and restaurants or Wine farms nearby. However, some places I would recommend if one was to ever visit Cape town it would be Jerry’s burger bar for probably the best burger and craft beer you’ll ever have. Beleza restaurant in the heart of Cape town is also great, their food is exquisite and doubles as a thrift store. I live right across a beachfront area called Eden on the Bay so I spend a lot of time there as it has a great grass patch, many restaurants and bars or just to sit on the beach and enjoy the views
Follow Mee and The Moon on Instagram