A new store was launched this past weekend in Gaborone’s iconic Main Mall, but this is no ordinary clothing retailer ÔÇô BW shop is the country’s first concept store.
Thabiso ‘Maverick’ Gulubane, the store’s managing director, is well known for being at the forefront of Botswana’s skateboard movement. However, he goes to great lengths to emphasise that skateboarding is just one element of this new shop. Gulubane gushes when he explains that this is the first time that hip-hop, skateboarding and graffiti art have been brought together to show that they are all part of one inter-connected web. “Urban culture is dynamic, it can’t be pigeon-holed to represent just one thing at a time and the BW shop is testament to that fact.”
The Google web definition of a concept store is a retail outlet that goes beyond simply selling products and instead appeals to a general sense of lifestyle by offering products to match the desires of those involved in a particular social scene. “The idea is that inside and outside, the shop should be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The shop itself is one large piece of art” says Gulubane. “In this country, you’ll go into a store and find a nice pair of shoes but then everyone else in town has them. We want a person to be able to come into our store and leave with something that is specifically for them ÔÇô something that they won’t find anywhere else.”
Johannesburg-based graffiti artist, Gogga, came into town this weekend to do the art on the walls outside the building and it’s from his lively designs that you get a sense of what Gulubane means when he talks about this shop.
Many of the clothes they offer are from brands created and operated by the men behind the shop themselves ÔÇô brands such as Lucky Charm, Crack Queen and LunArtic Orbit. The store also sells international brands sourced from Revolution, a South African clothing distributor. They get skateboards from a South African based skateboard company, Funisu, founded by Wandile Msomi, a Motswana entrepreneur and partner of the BW shop.
The genesis of this retailer came about in 2008 when Gulubane realised that skateboarding in Botswana was unsustainable because the boards are too expensive here. He began going to South Africa to buy skateboards for himself but he soon realised that he could recoup the money he spent by buying extra boards and selling them to his friends. This led to the establishment of the now defunct skateboard shop that Gulubane established in Broadhurst industrial. Gulubane blames the failure of that store on its location and the fact that it was a typical outlet that didn’t capture the lifestyle that makes him and his friends who they are.
Kagiso Kayobe, the shop’s art director, conceptualised the idea to create a store that would not rely on its content to appeal to customers but would also be aesthetically eye-catching.
“What people should understand about the BW shop is that we are trying to encourage the growth of the arts industry. We’re trying to find a way for our artists to keep pursuing their passion but still make a living out of it. We’re going to work towards a more profitable, more vibrant and more creative sector that embraces full access and full expression.”
Kayobe says that they plan to start opening the store as a gallery, every evening, for people to view the paintings, sketches and photographs of artists linked to the BW shop. The pieces will be up for sale through the shop itself.
The public can also look forward to fashion shows, weekly cipher sessions and a film festival scheduled for this winter.