Desigual, the optimistic brand we need right now, opens its first store in South Africa

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The Desigual store in Sandton City, Johannesburg. Image supplied by Styling Concepts
The Desigual store in Sandton City, Johannesburg. Image supplied by Styling Concepts
  • Desigual is one of the most internationally recognised Spanish fashion brands that operates in 92 countries with close to 500 stores.
  • The company opens the doors to its first establishment in the South African market in Johannesburg Sandton City, Shopping Centre.
  • We take a moment to appreciate the eccentric burst of colour that has just arrived in SA. 

What do Mango, Zara, Balenciaga, and Desigual all have in common? 

They're Spanish.

But more than their heritage, they are fashion brands whose imagery evokes a positive mood, while offering an unguarded approach to fashion. The latter two - Balenciaga and Desigual - more so, although Zara's website has just the right doses of strange.  

desigual comes to SA
Zara website 

I'm easily seduced by the sartorially eccentric, and in an often homogenous climate of fast fashion fads, I tend to lose interest to the extent that the attention span of a gold fish could easily one-up me. So when a fashion label tells me I can wear a hybrid blazer-meets-denim-jacket without exuding an aura of confusion, I'm open to being wooed by them. 

BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 14: Sonia Lyson is seen w
Sonia Lyson is seen wearing two tone black jeans Desigual blazer, grey shorts Urban Outfitters, top Zara, Dior bag, Jimmy Choo sunglasses, Bottega Veneta heels on August 14, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images) 

As someone whose daily getups are governed by her mood, I often make reference to mood dressing and the mood economy in my musings on new fashion trends/campaigns, and with Desigual making its first foray into SA a full decade after establishing a presence in Africa with three branded stores in Egypt and one in Tunis, I think there's space for that mood conversation again. Briefly so. 

READ MORE: No bras, no heels, no runways: How the pandemic has changed our relationship with fashion  

Ella Hudson's Party Power: Making Footwear Fun Again, reveals that we as consumers are starting to seek comfort and empowerment in the clothes we wear. And the first indication of this has been evident in the shoes which we've been buying over the past few years - think dad sneakers, flatforms and Crocs' new seat at the cool squad's lunch table. 

Women (especially) are starting to find fun, quirky shoes more appealing, cites the report, and this approach to dressing spans across all items of clothing - not just shoes.

According to Ella Hudson's 2017 Party Power report, there is a new mood economy - a phenomenon where brands are capitalising on the feel-good factor. That's a result of the mood economy where brands place symbols of 'happiness' and positivity on clothes or accessories to prompt a purchase.

Desigual is a perfect case study of this. 

Founded in Barcelona, Spain in 1984, and now open in Sandton City, SA, Desigual was created with the aim of “dressing people, not bodies”. Desigual is famous for the individuality and unique character of its creations, which aim to bring authenticity to those who want to be 100% themselves and express their most creative side.

The collections are made up of colourful and unapologetic garments that exude non-conformism, rebelliousness and optimism - essential traits of the Desigual DNA.  

desigual comes to sa
desigual SA

Desigual currently has a presence in 92 countries with a network of close to 500 stores that operate through an omnichannel model, a model that responds to the brand’s commitment to staying close to the consumer at all times, whenever and wherever they are, and regardless of the channel they choose to shop through. This decentralised geographical management allows the brand to serve customers all over the world as swiftly as possible. 

Desigual’s first store in South Africa carries collections from the Woman, Accessories and Shoes categories. As has been the norm since the launch of the new brand image in 2019, Desigual is using this store to showcase its new corporate identity and shopping experience. 

desigual comes to SA

The brand has opted for a franchise format and will be entering the South African market through local partner Marian Gaylard, a strategy that has proven successful in other regions, such as Latin America, and which Desigual will now be following in Africa.

This is a nod to a point made in a previous W24 article, where it was noted that "it matters that the global brands that have been welcomed with open wallets by South Africans over the decades, actually build meaningful relationships beyond the transactional when they are here" in the form of collaborations (for example). 

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE | Trenery to launch first-ever international Spring/Summer campaign shot in SA 

“Rather than attracting a following of people who all want to look the same as each other, it’s a brand that shouts from the roof tops 'Just be you. We love you just the way you are'. Authenticity, non-conformism, diversity and the freedom to be yourself are all part of Desigual’s DNA," says Marian Gaylard. 

And this is why this Spanish brand appeals to me - now more than ever in a stagnant pandemic era and an Instagram climate that is slowly facing a personality deficit and a famine of character. Scrolling down and coming across a thumb-stopping post such as this one can really make a momentary difference. 

As Desigual’s Channels Director Jordi Balsells explains; “The South African market has an intriguing potential for growth. The qualities of our collections, such as the vibrant colours, the diversity of the materials and the uniqueness of the designs, match a style that will resonate with local consumers and which, combined with the Desigual DNA, has the potential to build a very strong connection with customers.

”With this establishment in the South African market, Desigual is targeting a consumer profile aged 25 to 45 – albeit not exclusively – who like daring, bold proposals and following trends, whilst remaining an individual. They are also seeking sophisticated and personalised in-store experiences.

“The opening of this first store will allow us to test the acceptance of the brand with our sights firmly set on future openings in other locations like Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban,” adds Jordi. 

I know we're facing something of a retail apocalypse (I guess that's the other thing that makes Desigual so optimistic), but given that Mango made a comeback in 2019, I think we can say long may another Spanish retailer stay on our shores. 

desigual SA
desigual comes to sa


Additional information and images provided by Styling Concepts on behalf of Desigual.

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