Popularised in the 1950s by Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, the humble T-shirt is a hotter fashion item now than ever before, as proved by the founders of Love Jozi. Bradley Kirshenbaum and Jacques van der Watt launched Love Jozi Design in 2005. The company owns and manages four brands, but it’s the T-shirts that have truly made their mark.
“We use our T-shirts to communicate messages and ideas with clean designs that are fashionably relevant,” says Kirshenbaum.
The founders came up with the idea in the early days of Johannesburg’s regeneration when there was a lot of excitement and optimism about the city’s rebirth.
“I picked up on that and the response was so well received,” says Kirshenbaum. “It started off with a stylised graphic of the city’s skyline being bracketed by the two towers. I wanted to create a design to replace the sad cliché of Joburg being depicted by the Hillbrow Tower. The city has a sophisticated skyline and my version of it gave it a sexy, futuristic Jetsons-like look.” He printed the graphic on a few T-shirts, played with it on other items, and gave a friend the go-ahead to use it as a tattoo. “I started to realise its potential. People were excited about being here despite the socio-economic issues and they wanted to celebrate our misunderstood city.”
Their range has now expanded to include items like key racks, coat racks, book ends and lamps, all of which are characterised by design that is unique, relevant and modern.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love wearing the creative cap and the business cap. It’s given me a discipline that I never had before.
What are the most important lessons you have learnt?
That you can’t help everyone; that every day there are a few opportunities; that obsessive or excessive working isn’t good for my health.
What is it like to run a business like yours in Joburg?
My business is perfect for Joburg because of its theme. We are based in Maboneng in the inner city and the creative vibe of the area, the gold-digger spirit, the tension, the regeneration of Johannesburg, all completely suit me and my business right now. We are very much a Jozi-based brand.