07/06/2017 13:53 SAST | Updated 08/06/2017 16:26 SAST

The Making Of South African Icons

Read on to find out what – and who – trendsetters see as the iconic local brands of tomorrow.

South Africa has had its fair share of iconic brands and people – from Nelson Mandela, to Jenna Clifford, MTN and Brenda Fassie. We gathered a roundtable of cultural commentators to discuss what iconoclasm looks like today.

'Timelessness and resonance with the audience, in terms of relatability, reliability or aspirational value are what makes a brand iconic,' says Huff Post SA's Lifestyle Reporter Zongile Nhlapo.

'When I think of an iconic brand, I think about its ability to stand the test of time,' adds Anthony Bila, a youth culture expert and photographer known as The Expressionist. 'Has it matured, adapted and adjusted to the nuances of its territory? Does it understand the socio-economic context of the people it serves? An iconic brand knows its audience and communicates consistently and with relevance.'

Annicia Manyaapelo, Founder and Creative Director of Niche Luxe, agrees that relevance is key. 'Iconic brands should look internally and draw from our incredibly rich culture. Brands that stand out are true to themselves – they are rooted in heritage, culture and the people they service.'

'What makes a brand "iconic"? It's instantly identifiable, unique, you know exactly what it stands for, and it's uncompromising in its authenticity,' says Janine Jellars Huff Post SA Partners Studio Editor. Television super producer Sydney Mekgwe-Sitsila echoes these sentiments: 'the recipe for being an iconic brand is simple. It's about always being ahead of trends and being associated with the right people.'

Now, let's explore our expert panel's picks for iconic local brands:

Gallo Images
Fashion designer Thula Sindi at the opening of his new store in Klerksdorp.

Fashion Brands

Thula Sindi

More than anything, Thula gets quality right. He's very good with finishing and because of that, his garments can compete anywhere in the world. Regardless of who you are or where you're from, we all love beautiful things. And he's worked hard at giving each of his garments that essence of beauty. – Annicia

Thula Sindi, as a brand stands for timeless elegance and sophistication. Thula Sindi knows its customer base and produces consistent excellent work. The brand doesn't succumb to trends and I think that's what stands it in good stead as an icon in the making. – Janine

Gert Johan Coetzee

Any designer with their name on the label is always memorable. It's great branding when you literally put your name on your product. I've attended many fashion weeks and seen collections from designers that I can't even point out in the streets. Designers like Gert have found their niche and their brands are working for them. – Sydney

Gallo Images
Swaady Martin-Leke (centre) is building a global luxury business, Yswara.

Product Brands

The Test Kitchen – Luke Dale Roberts

Years ago, I had dinner at The Test Kitchen, and it took me weeks to get that meal out of my mind. Everything was perfect. Luke Dale Roberts has become a name synonymous with excellence and the awards are well deserved. It's become a cliché to say that The Test Kitchen is the best restaurant in South Africa, but, it's a fact, it is! – Janine


Yswara, which makes artisanal gourmet teas and accessories, operates in a different sphere than what we see as 'African brands'. Swaady Martin has taken a brand made right here in South Africa, sourced from the continent, to sit on shelved in Harrods. It's inspiring to see an unapologetic African luxury brand compete at that level. – Annicia

Carol Boyes

Carol Boyes has built an iconic brand that's truly local, but relevant around the globe. Her upmarket home ware and décor designs are now available in 30 countries! Carol Boyes items are incredibly iconic – you know exactly where it's from just by looking at them. They're stylish and they truly make the best wedding gifts. – Janine

Gallo Images
Actress Terry Pheto is carving her niche as a global icon.

Celebrity Brands

Trevor Noah

Trevor's following in the footsteps of Craig Kilborn and Jon Stewart, he's already a global icon. We can say so much about how he's built his brand, but we know he's truly made it – Bill Gates reviewed his book! – Sydney

Black Coffee

Even if there are South African musicians who become bigger than Black Coffee, he's already an icon for being one of the first mainstream musicians/DJs to break into the international music scene. He's performed at Coachella, has an Ibiza residency – he'll always be referenced as the first South African DJ to successfully and prominently break into the international music scene. – Zongile

Terry Pheto

Her first movie was nominated for an Oscar, she did a stint on one of the longest running soapies in the world (Bold and the Beautiful) and she's never been associated with any scandals that could jeopardise her brand. She appeared in Long Walk To Freedom and starred alongside David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike in A United Kingdom. She's also in an American mini-series, Madiba, with Laurence Fishburne. Her Hollywood connections will get her anywhere she wants to be in 20 years' time. – Sydney

If you're ready to explore true iconic taste, enter the world of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.