Meet Mathew & Melissa Kieser: The Duo Leading Local Streetwear Culture
The Orphan Street Clothing Shop officially launched in November 2017, and it’s unlike any shop in the hood. The space is an alluring juxtaposition of rough black walls, “unfinished” concrete counters & jagged wooden beams contrasted with glossy marble accents and slick, contemporary finishes. The result? An eerie amalgamation of beautiful post-apocalyptic modernity.
OSCS was created by husband and wife duo Mathew and Melissa Kieser to house their two homegrown streetwear brands, Sol-Sol and Maylee. The space is the ultimate canvas for the two brands, which, just like OSCS, disrupts the “meh” with stark but considered design and unexpectedly striking simplicity. The shop/brand/couple mash-up are paving their own way(s) in perfect unison – and from where we’re standing, it looks like a damn good place to be.
This got us curious about the minds behind the business…
Around 2014 Mat and Melissa launched Sol-Sol. This 100% local menswear brand is rooted in making good quality basics with a focus on fit, fabric and design. They blend clean silhouettes with muted palettes, combining bold prints with subtle details. They’ve become known for their collaborations with other brands and designers, from Ben Eagle to Levi’s.
In December 2016 they launched Maylee, the newest label in the Kieser-clan, but rapidly becoming an establishment within the local streetwear scene. Marie Claire magazine nicely summarizes the brand as “lux streetwear for women by women”, that encompasses minimal effort with maximum effect. The brand incorporates a simplistic yet striking silhouettes set off by high-end luxury fabrics. The collection includes denim, soft tencils, silk, cashmere and twills, spanning over engineered jackets, pants and shirts.
The duo opened their latest venture, OSCS, in November 2017.
We catch up with Mathew & Melissa:
How and why did you get into the fashion industry? Tell us about the journey to where you are now.
When we were teenagers we both started working in retail. Mat in a surf store, Mel in a fashion store. We both found our way into the industry through merchandising. Mat did a very basic short design course, Mel did a year of fashion. We both kind of skipped the whole studying-for-4-years part, and dived head-first into the working world of fashion.
Why street wear? Beyond being appealing to you personally, what about this style seemed like a smart / interesting choice?
It was just where we were both at, when I started Sol-Sol, it wasn’t a business decision or an especially calculated one. It’s just the world I was in and that was the clothing I wanted to make. The same is true of Maylee now, although with us both going through the headaches of Sol-Sol this was a little more calculated, we hope!
A few of your items feature elements by local artists, which is a great approach to cross-industry collaboration. How and why did this come about?
Yeah it’s definitely a cool way to bring together different skill sets to make something cool. Collaboration has been around forever and we are lucky we have a bunch of friends and talented people around us who are always down for a fun project. Briefs and ideas change all the time, sometimes it comes from us and sometimes from whoever we are working with on the project. Rights and usage is also down to whoever we are working with, but since it’s mostly people close to us we just work on something that everyone is happy with.
What’s the most exciting project / range / collaboration you’ve ever done?
The Levi’s one has to be the most exciting one to date, as it was a big brand with serious history. One which I really love. The team I got to work on it with was also really great, and that really makes a project worthwhile. But we have a bunch of smaller and bigger ones this year that should be really exciting…
Do you see Maylee and Sol-Sol as competitors, or co-brands? And how do you navigate this?
In a way we’re competitors. If someone walks into the store and they’re only buying one item it will either be Sol-Sol or Maylee, but we don’t look at it like that really. If someone comes and leaves with something, regardless of brand, it’s a good thing and we’re happy. We already did a small collection together which was really fun, so looking forward to doing some more.
Cornerstore has become a place of worship for local streetwear. Tell us about some of the challenges and rewards in growing this spot.
Lots of challenges and lots of rewards. Best part was the people involved from day one. We had a very strong team all with different strengths and weaknesses building up the store to what it has become. We managed to create a place that sold great products, but also told a great story and became a really special place for a lot of kids around Cape Town and South Africa. Corner Store turns 3 years old this year and we have introduced some great new brands for the first time and really looking forward to the future there!
The OSCS space is incredible. Why did you create this space? What went into conceptualising, creating and launching it?
Thank you! We felt we needed a space to really show off Maylee, and another door for Sol-Sol in town. It’s something that has been in the pipeline for a while and we just needed the right space for it. The concept at the end of the day is just a nice-looking shop that’s easy to make your way around. In terms of look and feel, we wanted the juxtaposition in our clothing to come into the store. So where we have very basic silhouettes from both brands, but done in beautiful high-end fabrics and vice versa. We also have raw and rough concrete next to a beautiful piece of marble. We worked with a great team from Framework Design to conceptualise the space and bring it to life.
Do you have any sneaky cheats for youngsters wanting to get into the fashion industry, and/or launch a retail space?
No cheats, unfortunately. Just a lot of hard work and effort. There are no real shortcuts, so instead of wasting time looking for them, focus on your craft.
Spill the beans – what’s next for Sol-Sol, Maylee and OSCS? What are your short and long-term ambitions?
The goal for both brands is to make better and better products, grow our brands at home and also start to get more and more product to other countries. OSCS has some cool new brands locally and internationally coming through this year which we are really excited about!
Photographs by Carl David Jones