Material Journey: Johannesburg [-100km] - local

Repair, Reuse, Reconstitute, Reclaim.

South Africans have an inherent relationship with leather. The cow is culturally and historically significant to the Zulu Kingdom in that ”Cattle [are] of symbolic and material importance - The Zulu expression “umnumzane ubonakala ngesibaya sakhe” (the man’s social status is seen by the size of his kraal) signifies the centrality of cattle as a form of wealth even among commoners”. This significance is echoed in the amount of Leather, a bi-product of cows, that can be seen all over Johannesburg, it’s a massive part of our footwear, furniture and automotive industry, and part of the informal footwear repair market.

Leather repairing stitchwork.

Leather is repairable - stitch patches, dye it, paint it back to its former glory. Leather is fascinating, I find it most interesting in its offcut form. Strips of leather strewn around leather wholesalers make their way to dedicated bins labeled: “offcuts”. I work with leather in a way that preempts the breaking or repair of our shoes, a process I call prerepair.  This is a way of identifying weak or damaged areas of our shoes and reinforcing them using low-tech methods that reflects South Africa’s repair economy.

Using the sewing awl, a hand tool I stitch offcut leather onto shoes to functionally repair them. This idea of maintenance is incredibly important for South Africa’s sustainable future. This adhoc reworking of a product introduces the aesthetic of repair or maintenance as something that is valuable.

Matthew Binary Edwards.

Founder and Designer of matte.

Johannesburg, South Africa.

matte is an experimental design studio from Johannesburg, focussed on designing with materials and processes in the South African context. Our approach to design is based on the concept of REIY (Recycle/redesign/reduce It Yourself) and MAKE DO, ways of working that push a variation of sustainable design in South Africa.

#localmaterial #design #fashion #restoration