Words by Misa Narrates
There is something magical about making clothing. Material in rolls, lying in some poorly lit fabric store, later become bespoke garments that can change the face of urban culture forever. Urban culture is marked by tastemakers pushing the bounds of what is “normal” and “acceptable”; bringing the aesthetics of those on the fringe into the fold. In his years as a designer, Matthew Kieser, the founder of Sol-Sol, has done just that.
From hoodies, to statement jackets, graphic tees, to printed socks, chances are you have seen Sol-Sol somewhere. Matt Kieser co-founded the line in 2016 alongside his partner Melissa Kieser. Since then, the label has taken on collaborations with brands such as Coke and Levi’s Jeans. However, the little known fact is that Sol-Sol was not the artist’s first label. Shortly after graduating, Matt launched a line that unfortunately failed after its first collection; making Matt reluctant to start over again for a few years. To his credit, the dream didn’t dissipate as he worked in SA’s retail industry. In fact, “It just got to a stage where I felt like I had learned enough and made the right contacts to do it properly,” he explains.
The global fashion industry has its glamour and grime, with a loaded history as well. Locally, the South African fashion industry has its fledglings and veterans, with the major separator between the two being access and information. For Matt, starting Sol-Sol, past his years working in retail prior to 2016, has shown the importance of disseminating that knowledge. His sentiment only speaks to a louder ideal of his brand creating a sense of community among its patrons. Young people, donning simple, yet loud, outfits in Cape Town is so normal, it may as well be uniform. More so, in spaces like the formerly well visited Corner Store, another one of Matt’s ventures, one could see the bonds between the people who not only wore his brand, but believed in it too. “I would hope that when people wear our product or appreciate the brand they would also feel a sense of community when seeing other friends wear it and clothing can often add confidence, hopefully ours is doing that.”
This December, creative artists and festival goers alike will flock towards Johannesburg for Afropunk’s annual December NYE bash. The festival has put forward their own ideals over the years. Unlike their festival counterpart, Matt Kieser made an active effort not to make the views or ideals of Sol-Sol public, instead relying on his work as the founder to speak for itself. Nevertheless, when asked to derive some kind of ethos around his brand for public consideration, he noted the importance of being “good people”. In American urban culture, many may recall movies wherein black characters described each other as good people, although they may have been referring to one person in particular. For instance, “He’s good people,” is a line you can’t place, although it’s definitely had its shine in urban blockbusters. In the same vein rests Matt Kieser’s Sol-Sol, “trying to just be good peoples.” He goes on further to explain that his brand has everything to do with achieving dreams, hence their slogan, ‘Destroy Today’ is as public and clear a statement about the brand’s ethos of going out into the world to realize dreams.
Brands like his and Afropunk’s have been shared and grown over the Internet. For Matt, the world of digital retail has offered him international success and made the world small as a consequence. Though he notes the competition being a direct effect of brands being able to establish themselves online, more important to him is the ability to grow as a creative community. “[The internet] is giving opportunities [for] people to make there way into the industry.” This sentiment has directly translated into Sol-Sol’s branding in South Africa’s pop culture over the past two years. From the way Corner Store once made people feel welcome and home, to their consistent consideration to remuneration and offering opportunity to fellow creative artists, models, and the like, Sol-Sol has managed to avoid many ills facing the fashion industry, while setting itself apart from the pack through meaningful digital presence in creative industries. To Matt Kieser, using the Internet and growing his line is simple, “for us it’s doing what we can to help the people around us where we can…trying to support the local industry where we can.”
With consumer consumption of projects and media moving at a pace that feels like the blink of an eye, Matt Keiser has managed to keep his brand in the hearts and closets of streetwear enthusiasts throughout the country and abroad. Mainstream platforms such as fashion week, though they often come under fire for their relevance and efficiency in the South African market, offer brands the opportunity to showcase their work to greater society. Sol-Sol’s participation in fashion week is a meaningful addition to putting streetwear at the center of fashion industry engagement in SA. For this reason, his devotion to community building is a marked effort to not only maintain a brand closer to his values, but to normalize the growth of the local creative industry as well.