“In many ways, Africa is the last frontier for retail,” explains Sean Shuter, co-owner with Jason Storey of Unknown Union, a new and stylish men’s boutique in Cape Town, South Africa. “I was impressed by the dichotomy between the sophistication of [its] market and the limited access to elite international designers and brands.”
24 Kloof St.
The two-level shop, located in an 18th-century historic building on lower Kloof Street in the Garden District, features heritage labels like Pendleton and Penfield tempered with young designers such as Warriors of Radness; Naked & Famous Denim; Shades of Grey; Surface to Air; and the shop’s own eponymous brand, which is manufactured in Africa and gives a portion of its proceeds to local charities. This is not Shuter’s first foray into fashion: In 2006, he and Daniel Jackson (head of Apparel Design for Uknown Union) opened BBlessing, a menswear boutique and clothing label on New York’s Lower East Side, which allowed them to establish contacts and forge relationships that, for the Cape Town store, “certainly helped in convincing brands to sell to us,” Shuter says. Many of those brands are becoming available in Africa for the first time.
The men’s pioneering spirit also applies to the store itself (designed by Rafael de Cárdenas, a New York–based architect and interior designer). Among other things, it features an awe-inspiring ceiling of fluorescent tubes woven in a web pattern and shelving in vivid, eye-popping colors — think teals, greens, yellows and pinks.
The shop’s offerings change seasonally, and a small women’s collection will be available in the coming months, with an official Unknown Union collection launching next year. Stores in New York and London are also planned.