#MyJoburg with Lesley Kellerman, founder of Heart & Heritage

28 Apr 2024
In our #MyJoburg series, we speak to people who add something unique to Joburg's creative mix and get the lowdown on what enthrals them about this city.

Designer and founder of local fashion label Heart & HeritageLesley Kellerman, studied fashion design at the University of Johannesburg. She established her fashion label in 2014 after a travel stint, where she gained international experience in London and Toronto. She also founded Convoy in 2015, a Melville retail space and incubator for South African designers. In 2016, she won Best Emerging Designer at SA Fashion Week, and in 2019 she opened her Heart & Heritage flagship store at REAA Foundation's urban complex in Craighall Park.

We caught up with Kellerman as she finished preparation for her latest collection, inspired by astronomy, showing at SA Fashion Week S/S 2024 at Mall of Africa from Thu, Apr 18 – Sat, Apr 20.

"I think true Joburgers have the superpower of resilience from living here long enough. We become so hardy we can turn adversity into opportunity."

As someone who's showing, what's the most exciting aspect of SA Fashion Week?
I haven't participated in SA Fashion Week for a few years. Designing a collection that stays true to my brand while adding elevated creative detailing to make the pieces runway-ready has been a challenge. At the same time, it has forced me to focus purely on design. As a business owner, I often get caught up in the admin and production side of things, so it's been refreshing to be fully focused on creating, designing, and experimenting for a change. As a result, I have some new and beautiful pieces that I'm excited to share at the show.
Lesley Kellerman inside her Heart & Heritage store at the REEA Foundation. Photo: Supplied.

What makes Heart & Heritage a Joburg label?
Almost everything. I have been a Joburger all my life, and have learnt to find inspiration amongst the chaos of living in this crazy but wonderful city. My collection is manufactured in Joburg, my store is based in Joburg, and I source my fabrics and trims from Joburg–based suppliers. We have deep Joburg roots. My grandfather came to South Africa on a ship from England when he was 16 to work in the Johannesburg gold mines. I still have many of his tools and an anvil of his on display in my studio.

How would you describe what you have created?
Heart & Heritage is a lovingly made, Johannesburg–produced, women's everyday wear range with a design edge. We treasure the hand detailing in our work and find beauty in unique silhouettes and shapes, with many pieces hand-painted and thoughtfully reworked into their final forms. As a proud slow fashion brand, we only produce small runs of each style and repeat our signature cuts in limited fabrics, which have become synonymous with our brand, all made by local hands.
Heart & Heritage features a monochrome palate with splashes of colour that have become the brand's signature print. Photo: Supplied.

You have lived all over the world. Why did you decide to come back to Joburg?
I missed home! London is amazing, but there were just too many people for my liking. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of people anywhere I went, and trying to break into the industry as a young designer with no connections was very hard. I did so many unpaid internships to get a foot in and just scraped by. I did learn so much there, but whew!

Toronto is incredible. Canadians are kind and wonderful people, and my sister still lives there so I go over whenever I can. However, as a deep-rooted Joburger, I struggled to relate to how 'perfect' their society is. As I mentioned before, I find inspiration in the chaos and colour of Johannesburg. There is also a lot of red tape to navigate as a business owner. It's just easier to be an entrepreneur in South Africa. Our society encourages entrepreneurship and there are many opportunities here to start small and grow. Disclaimer! These are just my points of view from the experiences I have had.

"My collection is manufactured in Joburg, my store is based in Joburg, and I source my fabrics and trims from Joburg-based suppliers. We have deep Joburg roots."

What are some of your favourite Joburg markets to exhibit and shop at?
Kamers/Makers is my all-time favourite. The next one is from Wed, May 1 – Sun, May 5 at St. David's Marist in Inanda. Come and visit me!

Your shop is located at the REEA Foundation in Craighall Park. What do you love most about being there?
The REEA Foundation is an urban farm in the heart of Joburg and one of Joburg's best-kept secrets. All our rentals go to the foundation supporting 24/7 care of people with severe epilepsy and other conditions, so of course I feel awesome for renting a space here. There is no marketing budget so people discover this place purely by chance and word of mouth.

Our shop is also our studio, where we create and make every day, so it's a very nurturing workspace. Horses roam by while we draft patterns, the centre cats pop in to get a snack, and we look out onto Delta Park with all its beautiful colours. When people visit us, they can see the love that gets poured into our work, and one of the top comments I get all the time is what a beautiful workspace we have found.
The beautiful entrance of Kellerman's Heart & Heritage studio at the REEA Foundation. Photo: Unathi Nkhoma.

What's your number-one tip for visitors to the REEA Foundation?
There is a lot to discover here. Gerakaris is Johannesburg's only winery. They bring their grapes from the Western Cape and make their wine here at REEA Foundation. You can book an afternoon tasting with them. Delta Café makes great pizzas and coffee (our daily treat to ourselves) and they have a playground with caregivers which is a win for parents and kids. The nursery is the best priced in the area, the horse stables add to our urban farm aesthetic, and visitors can wander through the vegetable gardens tended to by the centre residents our rentals support. There is the REEA Village Vet here and Core Studios for physiotherapy, yoga, and more. You can buy fresh mushrooms and mushroom products from Co2nutraceutics next to the winery. Cedric's Car Wash will do a fine job washing your car inside and out for R150, and the charity shop is full of bargains and treasures to discover.

The best for last, and my number-one tip, is to visit the REEA Charity Bookshop. It is a treasure trove of well-priced, second-hand books. I have found so many great ones there and stop in whenever I can. Of course, all proceeds go to the foundation. For more about the centre, visit their website.

Tell us about the donation wall on Marlborough Avenue that you started. 
There is a lot of foot traffic on Marlborough Avenue because of Delta. We have even had President Cyril Ramaphosa walk past our studio, so it was the perfect spot to make our donation wall. The wall has many hooks where people can hang their unwanted clothing or items, and those in need can take what is there. The wall always looks empty, but that's because whatever gets hung there gets snapped up so quickly.
Donations are quickly snapped up from the Wall of Kindness on Marlborough Avenue.  Photo: Supplied.

Home is...

Your favourite Joburg suburb, and why you choose it?
I call it my 'circle'. I love all the park areas, circling from Auckland Park to Craighall Park. All my favourite restaurants, shops, and hangout spots are here.

What is a surprising thing people might learn about Joburg by having a conversation with you?
People are usually surprised that I am based in Joburg. There is somehow a perception that all designers are from Cape Town.

What three things should a visitor not leave Joburg without seeing or experiencing?
Lunch at Melville's Service Station Café and a shop at Convoy next door. A visit to the art galleries around Rosebank and Hyde Park, and stop in at Pantry by Marble while in the area. A meander at Kamers/Makers when it's on.

Your favourite Joburg author or favourite Joburg book?
Hidden Johannesburg by Paul Duncan and Alan Proust [Duncan is the founder of African Press Publications and an author. Proust is a leading South African photographer]. 
The Chicken basil pesto linguine at Pronto is one of Kellerman's favourites. Photo: Pronto via Instagram.

The most memorable meal you have eaten in Joburg?
Family Sunday lunches hold special memories for me, but my best food spots in the city are Oishi for sushi, Issy's Coffee and Gift Shop's bagels, pasta from ProntoService Station Café for lunch and the best catering, Glenda's for breakfast, you can't beat a picnic at Country Club, Johannesburg in Auckland Park.

If you could buy one Joburg building which would it be?
Dunkeld West Centre. It's so ugly yet so awesome!

Favourite Joburg label, and why?
So many I can’t choose just one! Tshepo Jeans, McAlpine, Superella, MaXhosa, Black Coffee, Mmuso Maxwell, Tiaan Nagel... They are all so talented in their own way.

"I have been a Joburger all my life, and have learnt to find inspiration among the chaos of living in this crazy but wonderful city."

What makes someone a Joburger?
I think true Joburgers have the superpower of resilience from living here long enough. We become so hardy we can turn adversity into opportunity.

What do you love most about Joburg?
Our movers and shakers. Joburg people are the best people.

What do you least like about Joburg?
Poor infrastructure.

One song on your Joburg soundtrack that either is about Joburg or makes you think about this city?
JHB performed by Hugh Masekela.

Your number-one tip for a first-time visitor to Joburg?
Don't worry, that was just a hadeda, and hide your phone!

One Joburg personality whom you would honour with the freedom of the city if you could, and why? 
Thuli Madonsela [South Africa's former public protector]what a lady!

The perfect weekend in Joburg includes...
Sunshine, a delicious breakfast, and an afternoon nap.

Three words that describe this city?
Chaos, danger, adventure.

Check out some of our previous #MyJoburg interviews for more insights into the city:

#MyJoburg with Mbongeni Buthelezi, artist
#MyJoburg with Greg Homann, Market Theatre Foundation's artistic director
#MyJoburg with Gabrielle Onay, co-founder of Picnic&Thrift

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter for all the latest news and reviews.

For all the latest news of what to do around Joburg, keep up to date with our weekly events and exhibitions guides.

St David's Marist

36 Rivonia Rd, Inanda


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