/ 22 July 2022

Mors Design is turning waste into worth

Ethical wear: Clothing from Mors Design is made from recycled fabrics and its jerseys are made of mohair from Angora goats farmed in the Karoo. Photos: Rynto Stols

My first encounter with Mors Design was through a social media app and I was intrigued by the brand name, which means “waste” in Afrikaans, and curious about how the green initiative upcycles scraps and found objects into luxurious clothing for women. 

“No two pieces are identical nor perfect, each carry quirky aspects of the knitter”

Every item produced by the woman-owned brand is made from organic and recycled fabrics. A scroll through social media pages shows a selection of handbags and a newer collection of mohair jerseys. What is also evident is the commitment to job creation, skills development and the empowerment of women. 

Handmade products are better appreciated through touch so I added a visit to Mors Design’s Watershed V&A Waterfront store to my to-do list. When the day arrived, I met its founder, Raihana Govender, who spoke about the thought process behind her fashion business and its commitment to sustainability and fair business practises.

How did your upbringing shaped your creative entrepreneurial journey? 

Coming from a family who has always been politically conscious and active in assisting communities in townships where I spent a lot of time as a child, it seemed only innate to align myself with a deep consciousness towards our people and planet rather than my creative journey being one I had to think of.

Tell us more about the genesis of your business idea of creating a sustainable accessories and knitwear brand. 

Mors Design was founded in 2015 after crossing paths with a designer who showed me a product made from recycled tyre tubes. This immediately inspired and resonated with me and so began the journey of Mors Design. It was always intended to be a slow fashion sustainable brand. 

Mors was born out of a love for beautiful silhouettes and a passion for sustainable design. In recognising the beauty and durability in old tyre tubes, we began our journey in rescuing raw material from landfills and dedicating ourselves to creating elegant products that don’t compromise on style, sustainability or ethics. 

MoLuv, the knitwear side of the business, launched in the summer of 2019, born out of a long-cherished love for luxurious knits. Motivated by admiration of our wardrobe knits and encouragement from those held dear, so began our journey in sourcing mohair, one of the world’s most beautiful sustainable natural fibres, and dedicating ourselves to perfecting patterns in creating sumptuous knitwear that evoke an artisanal feeling without compromising on style and simple elegance.

The Eastern Cape is known for its quality wool. We have seen a few of South Africa’s success stories in luxury knitwear. What makes mohair from that province so special? 

Our mohair is farmed in the Karoo area of the Eastern Cape, where majestic shaggy Angora goats are shorn by hand twice a year with no harm to them. The naturally lustrous fleece undergoes a process of hand-combing, hand-spinning and dyeing, encouraging a uniqueness to every piece of knitwear we produce. 

Sustainability is top of mind even down to Mors Design’s packaging. Why did you settle on recycled umbrellas as shopping bags? 

As a slow fashion brand with purpose it is imperative that we keep within the ethos of our brand, from sourcing of our raw materials right down to the end transaction. We convert recycled canvas umbrellas into trendy tote bags, which we use to tastefully package your special MoLuv mohair purchase. 

When it comes to knitwear, cheaper, mass-produced alternatives exist. How do you communicate the importance of sustainable, slow produced products to first-time clients? 

In my interaction with new clients, I create a dialogue around conscious consumerism through sharing our story and ethos of our brand. We embrace slower traditional methods of creation and each MoLuv jersey and cardigan is hand-knitted and hand-stitched in small batches by skilled women in our local communities. 

No two pieces are identical nor perfect. Each carries quirky aspects of the knitter herself who has spent hours weaving love into every stitch. When you purchase a MoLuv knit, you will not only experience the uniqueness embedded in every stitch wrapping you in warmth and comfort, making those cooler months memorable, but you will be making a positive impact on the planet through investing in sentimental heirloom pieces worth loving and sharing for years to come, contributing to the long-term prosperity of the Karoo region.

Decarbonising fashion is complicated and more need to be done to educate the public about responsible buying. How does Mors Design tackle waste, overproduction and the overuse of hazardous chemicals in the fashion industry? 

Our Mors bags are made from upcycled tyre tubes, encouraging

a uniqueness to every bag we produce. 

Once the tyre tube arrives at our studio in Cape Town, it undergoes a thorough cleaning process in preparation for the hand-cutting and adapting of this once-thought defected waste material into creating a treasure with true character. 

Our MoLuv knits are made only from natural fibres, which undergo natural processes. There is little to no waste in the manufacturing of Mors products.

Is the demand for your product range more local or international buyers? 

For now our clientele is predominantly international but our market is aimed at both local and international.

“Made in Africa” is becoming a valuable tagline in fashion. What is your strategy in creating goods that the international world is prepared to buy — not just ‘‘pity purchasing’’ for tourists? 

Mors Design has been a slow fashion journey of love which continues to unfold in unimaginable ways based on our strong intention to care deeply for people and planet. We are a brand with purpose.

It needs sharp retail eyes and dedicated design teachers to turn handmade skills into saleable luxury products. Tell us about your relationship with the artisans behind your brand. How do you develop and empower the women? 

We embrace slower traditional methods of creation and each MoLuv jersey and cardigan is hand-knitted and hand-stitched in small batches by skilled women within our local communities. We are creating jobs for women who are able to both work at home and care for their families, while earning a

sustainable income, thereby empowering communities. 

The bell sleeves and oversized fit of Mors Design knitwear are quite striking. When it comes to the design details, patterns and colours of each knit product, what makes your product distinct? 

MoLuv, a range of bold and brightly coloured chunky mohair knits, is inspired by the joyful nostalgia of childhoods gone by, reflecting a playful sensibility. Drawing inspiration from natures landscapes, each knit an expression of dynamic colour revealing its alluring essence in all her boldness. 

Is mohair season specific? How do you ensure consistent turnover even during the warmer months? 

Our oversized oh-so-comfy knits are for all seasons, perfect for those casual sunny days out shopping at the market or fun evenings out on the town with your besties or simply cuddling up by the fire on those cold winter nights. 

What advice would you give entrepreneurs with a desire to build a sustainable fashion business in the current climate? 

Don’t compromise on morals and ethics. Be generous and kind. Stay true to yourself and remember the reason you began your entrepreneurial journey. Growth and development happens during challenging times so embrace it as we are always given what we need but not necessarily what we want.

Go to www.morsdesign.com, @morsdesign on Instagram or visit the V&A Waterfront Watershed store in Cape Town.