FEEL GOOD | Cape Flats brothers' clothing brand started to keep family afloat now threading its way to the top

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Cape Flats brothers’ clothing brand (Supplied)
Cape Flats brothers’ clothing brand (Supplied)
  • Two brothers founded Retrofit clothing from their garage.
  • Their grandparents have been working in the clothing industry for over 20 years.
  • Money made from selling the clothes is to sustain the family and to pay university fees.

From their garage in Strandfontein Village in the Western Cape, a family are stitching together a living by using their collective clothing manufacturing skills to build a business they started to stay afloat during the pandemic.

Retrofit, founded by brothers Franklin and Lawrance Burt, produces garments using the expertise their father and grandparents learnt in the clothing manufacturing trade.

And while Covid-19 has seen many businesses fold owing to financial difficulty, the small business which they launched during the nationwide lockdown is proving to be a cut above the rest as they produce an average of 120 units per week, depending on the number of orders they receive.

Franklin, 21, is a full-time student, while Lawrance has been unemployed for the past two years. The brothers started Retrofit to earn an income and finance Franklin's studies as their self-employed father's clothing shop was the only income in their household.

"My grandparents have been working in the manufacturing process of the clothing industry for over 20 years and have since developed from making basic t-shirts and tights to being able to easily manufacture tracksuits, dresses, kiddie's denim jeans, chino pants and so much more," Franklin said.

Their grandmother Clara Solomons and her sister Sarah van De Westhuizen are the hands behind the brand, huddled over sewing machines and creating the garments which Lawrance and his dad Neil design.

Both brothers cut the garments and maintain the Retrofit social media pages, while Lawrence does the photography and designed the company logo.

clothing brand
Cape Flats brothers’ clothing brand (Supplied)
clothing brand
Cape Flats brothers’ clothing brand (Supplied)

Neil worked in the clothing industry with Solomons and Van de Westhuizen and developed his skills through observing and helping them in the factory.

He does most of the cutting while also assisting with the sewing and finishing off the garments.

While their main goal was to financially support their family, the brothers' initiative has grown bigger than they had initially imagined. They are able to stay afloat and are paying off Franklin's student debt.

Local personalities have started purchasing their garments and they have already garnered a solid social media following, boasting over 2 500 followers on Instagram.

Radio and club deejay Calvin "Gremlin" Potgieter sang Retrofit's praises, saying the simple designs and comfort of their clothing made him an instant fan.

He described Franklin and Lawrence as "genuine, humble guys with a strong work ethic".

"I've noticed a meteoric rise in the number of local clothing and merch companies that have launched over the past 12 months. Obviously, the pandemic plays a huge role, but I think people are starting to realise how easy social media has made it start a business from your phone."

His own wardrobe is packed with Cape Town clothing brands, he said.

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The brothers said they wanted to change the misconception that retro clothing is "old fashioned", explaining that their slogan - "old fashioned kids" - embodies the assimilation of retro ideas into a more modern, trending society.

"The Retrofit brand aims to create fashionable clothing that is appropriate for all age groups, caters for any body size while emphasising the idea that style has no age," Franklin said.

Cayla Fischer (CORR) of Bayview has been supporting Retrofit since its launch.

"I'm trying to stay away from buying store clothing and only support local because of the originality. Also, their clothes make you feel lekker when you wear them," she said.

Proud of their achievements, Franklin said he wanted to show that where you're from doesn't determine where you end up.

The brothers hope to open at least two stores in the next few years, selling only locally manufactured clothing, but also dream of making it big and selling their garments internationally.

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