Interview: The duo behind Me&B at 44 Stanley

14 Jun 2023
In a world dominated by fast fashion, where style and comfort often take a back seat for those who aren't sample size, the quest for unique and well-fitting clothes can feel like an uphill battle. Then there's Me&B.

Since opening at 44 Stanley, this Cape Town-based label has become a firm favourite among the Johannesburg In Your Pocket team. Embracing inclusivity and diversity as a driving force, the dynamic mother and daughter duo behind the brand – Betina Swart and Kelly-Grace Gibberd – have crafted a clothing brand that transcends boundaries of age and size, delivering stylish and often exhilarating garments that leave a lasting impression.
Me&B founders. Photo Supplied
Mother and daughter duo Kelly-Grace Gibberd (left) and Betina Swart (right) – the force behind Me&B. Photo: Me&B.

"We are fashion obsessed, it’s all we think and talk about non-stop! However, as two women who are not sample size, we found it so frustrating to walk into a store and not find anything that fit our bodies and our personal styles"

Amidst a sea of often mundane fashion, Me&B embodies a vibrant South African spirit and stands out in its price range. Me&B has committed itself to ensuring that no one is left out, catering to a wide range of sizes from 32 to 46. Swart and Gibberd's shared vision for shaking up the fashion industry is manifested in a collection bursting with eye-catching colours, captivating prints and daring silhouettes. We caught up with Kelly-Grace Gibberd to talk about the trailblazing brand. 

How did Me&B start, and why?
We are fashion obsessed, it’s all we think and talk about non-stop! However, as two women who are not sample size, we found it so frustrating to walk into a store and not find anything that fit our bodies and our personal styles. This was a constant pain point for us, so we put together B’s [Betina's] decades of experience with local production and my experience as a buyer at a major retailer, and the brand was born. We’re here to provide women a safe space to be themselves and express themselves through clothing that is made by women like them.
How would you describe your brand in three words?
Inclusive, fun, trend-driven.
Why is it important to you to make clothing across an extended size range?
The South African customer is not a one-size-fits-all kind of girl, and neither are we. So we’ve taken a lot of time and effort to ensure that our offering reflects what the customer is looking for. Many customers want to dress in fun, bright and bold garments that make them feel beautiful, but most retailers only cater [up] to a size 38. We’ve extended our size curve to a 46, in every single style, so that each of our customers can get a garment that fits their body and their vibe.
Many brands use the excuse that making clothing across an extended size range is too expensive and doesn’t provide a return on investment. What is your experience of this?
We aren’t going to sugarcoat it. The process isn’t always easy but we’ve found that being there for the group of women who have been ostracised by retailers and their restrictive sizing is so worth it! Not only are we offering them an option in every style, we’re also creating a community of women who have had similar experiences. What a dream! We often have to do multiple fits of our samples in sizes 34 and 44 to ensure that the fit integrity is up to standard. We go so far as getting our staff members to try on the garments and give their honest takes on the fit. We do our best and use our knowledge of construction and fabric to keep our prices as accessible as possible.
Me&B. Photo: Supplied.
Standout colour at Me&B. Photo: Me&B. 

What motivated you to create clothing that is age-inclusive and stylish?
We found from our own experiences that fashion retailers and trends tend to push women into specific styles depending on their age. We found this so frustrating because we don’t want to dull down our style as we get older. We want to be the space that women can go to if they have been feeling the same way. Ideally, we would love it if our garments can be equally loved across generations. Nothing better than sharing clothes with your mom, right?

"Fashion retailers and trends tend to push women into specific styles depending on their age. We found this so frustrating because we don’t want to dull down our style as we get older"

What’s a fashion trend you’re currently loving?
We are going absolutely crazy for the metallic trend at the moment. We love that something that has typically been restricted to occasion wear has become more wearable and appropriate for the everyday wardrobe. We’ve been working on some very vibey metallic pieces, so if anyone is feeling for this trend like we are – stay tuned!
Which trend do you hope will 'expire' soon?
This won’t come as a surprise, but we are so over fast fashion and bad fabric. We are opting for more thought-out garments made from high-quality fabric. We’re all about shopping, and making garments that are going to be in your wardrobe for ages.
Me&B. Photo:44 Stanley
Bright, bold and inclusive – Me&B. Photo: 44 Stanley. 

When creating a garment, what feelings do you hope to evoke in the wearer?
We feel so lucky that our Cape Town work space is directly connected to our store in Woodstock, because it means we get to interact with our customers. To hear that a woman who maybe didn’t feel confident in her body post-baby has found a dress that makes her feel sexy again, or to see a 20-something professional finally find a suit that is the perfect mix of professional and fun – these are things that make the whole process so worthwhile. It’s all we strive to do daily. We want everyone who buys and wears our garments to feel their best self, whether that’s sultry and sexy, or comfortably chic. Whatever that person's best is, that’s what we’re aiming for every time. 
What is the inspiration behind the use of bright and fun colours in your designs?
Oddly enough, the lack of bold and bright colours everywhere else served as the ultimate inspiration. To walk into a retail space and see a sea of neutrals was not something that brought us any joy. 
What challenges did you face when you first started?
Local production is a beast that we are constantly battling, from technical issues to problems like load-shedding. The path to the final garment is not a smooth one. 
44 Stanley. Photo: Ryan Enslin.
Me&B can be found at Joburg's 44 Stanley, a boutique destination in Milpark known for its plant-filled courtyards. Photo: Ryan Enslin.

Why did you choose 44 Stanley as your Joburg flagship store?
We felt that our first store space needed to be in Johannesburg. We already had a touch point for our Cape Town customers at our old offices in Salt River. While on the hunt for the perfect spot, we heard about an opening at 44 Stanley and knew it was the right fit almost immediately. I had been to Salvation Cafe, and seen the beautiful courtyard areas and the people. The space fit so seamlessly with our brand and it’s been such a dream to have a spot there. Honestly, every time we get to visit that space is a pinch me moment!
What's next from Me&B?
Our new summer range is our best yet! The team have worked so hard to create a range that really speaks to our customers. We’ve used data and customer insights, along with our trusty gut instincts, to ensure that our range has a piece for everyone. We’ve focused on fabric quality and fit like never before, and we’ve gone big on linen. We’re really excited about this range: while there are aspects that scream Me&B, we’ve also thrown a spanner in the works and gone a bit edgier and moodier. 


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