Two pop songs, Grown Woman (by Beyonce) and Feeling Myself (by Nicki Minaj featuring Beyonce), landed a Cape Town clothing brand in trouble early this year. C(lit), started by Cape Town students Ceil Reynecke and Sarah Zimmerman, put out several t-shirts under their label, including ones inspired by the two songs by black American singers. This did not go down well with their audience who accused the two of profiting off the labour of black women.
The label subsequently apologised on their Facebook page and announced that they'd be pulling the two t-shirts off their range.
I met the entrepreneurs at Yours Truly in Kloof Street, on an unusually warm Cape Town winter afternoon. They were frank about the incident and admitted that they still have some unlearning to do, especially as feminists who started the label to empower women and challenge stereotypes.
“I think with the kind of subject matter that we are talking about it’s going to be a constant learning process and we try to be as inclusive as possible,” says Reynecke. Zimmerman adds that they are also realising where their voices fit into the broader feminist narrative and learning their place within that as well as what they can and cannot do. "What we have been doing recently is just being aware of what we have been producing and what we are saying."
Their feisty t-shirts, bucket hats and caps that feature suggestive slogans like Millenial AF, No Means No and Tr(eat) Me Better have gotten them a lot of fans and media attention. The design of the t-shirts and caps are simple with few colour options and the text printed on them is meant to give you a sense of empowerment when you wear it. This range sparks dialogue within the current gender discourse and can play a small part to change the perceptions on how women’s bodies are perceived.
“The response from people is pretty amazing. Even when my parents heard the name they were like: ‘What?’. Afterwards, when they heard the message behind it, they were a lot more receptive,” says Reynecke.
They're running their label while on the hunt for employment to help bring in some money to support their brand. When asked what their creative process is like, Reynecke replies: “A lot of coffee!”.
Zimmerman adds that it's basically lattes, brainstorming and writing down a lot of slogans.
The t-shirts and caps are designed and embroidered locally and their longterm plan is to design a full range of clothing. “We want you to be dressed head to toe in the C(lit) brand," says Reynecke. For winter they plan to release a range of beanies that will feature illustrations designed by Zimmerman.
They explain that selling their merchandise online limits access to their customers. To get around this, they do have a stand at the Biscuit Mill in Cape Town and hope to expand to other places. “In general people want to try on things and see what it looks like. With this physical space people will be more inclined to buy our product,” they say.
Check out the full range of merchandise here