#MyJoburg with Ricci Kalish Liedeman, fashionista and founder of Big Bad Batch

19 Jul 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. 

Known as the Big Bad Wolf in fashion circles, writer, creator, and fashionista Ricci Kalish Liedeman is a Joburger with an infectious passion for local fashion, film, and politics. She’s also the mastermind behind Big Bad Batch, a new and exciting online fashion rental service. From red carpet glam to brunch chic, Big Bad Batch offers access to local designer looks without breaking the bank. With a keen eye for cultural nuances and a love for sociology and South African history, fuelled by her current BA in Social Work studies, Kalish Liedeman explores Johannesburg’s diverse tapestry with cultural insight, flair, and fun.

"Cultural, eclectic, and bougie. I love how people dress up in Joburg. Nowhere comes close to the originality of Joburg's style."

Fashion blogger and style icon Ricci Kalish Liedeman, also known as Big Bad Wolf, in her home. Photo: Big Bad Wolf via Instagram.

"We are all born into cities by mere chance, and many people don’t necessarily feel an attachment to them. However, I do believe I was born in the right place. Joburg is a massive part of my identity, and I feel an ethereal connection to it."

How did you become a fashion blogger?
I had graduated from film school, acted in the award-winning film Necktie Youth, and was going to tons of auditions. Between auditions, I had time to intern at a few local magazines. I interned at Sunday Times Fashion, and then Marie Claire, where one of my tasks was to do their online blogs. I fell in love with writing about everything fun and fashion, and decided I needed my own brand so I could write about whatever I wanted.

What inspired the name Big Bad Wolf?
When I was young, I was with my family at a function, dressed head-to-toe in red. A family friend commented that I looked like Little Red Riding Hood, and my parents piped up – “More like the Big Bad Wolf.”  I have a fierce tongue. It’s also quite a perfect metaphor for Joburg – the Big Bad City – and little ol’ me meandering through it.

Your new venture is Big Bad Batch. What is it about and why did you start it?
It’s a rental fashion brand focused on sustainability and sustainable fashion practices. I’ve collected many beautiful pieces over the years and have always wanted to share them without necessarily selling them. I have fostered great connections with local designers and want people to be able to afford to wear their pieces. I am also building a wardrobe of young designers, giving them a platform and hopefully new customers.
 Big Bad Batch is also all about inclusivity, offering garments from sizes 6 to 22. Photo: Supplied.

What sparked your passion for sustainable fashion?
That directly or indirectly my passion and my work promote excess... I couldn’t continue on this influencing path without taking an active step into sustainable fashion. Fashion is a massive contributor to our climate crisis, and every little bit helps. I believe rental fashion is an accessible and affordable way to be part of this ever-growing community.

Other sustainable initiatives you admire?
Soil for Life is dedicated to teaching communities how to cultivate their own food, improve their health and well-being, and protect the environment. SKOON is a thoughtful skincare brand centred around sustainable practices.

Define Joburg's style...
Cultural, eclectic, and bougie. I love how people dress up in Joburg. Nowhere comes close to the originality of Joburg's style.
Kalish Liedeman's fun and eclectic style. Photo: Supplied.

Fashion figures you admire in Joburg and beyond?
Vusumuzi Ndima, aka Bob the Stylist, Lezanne Viviers, Boogy Maboi, Bee Diamondhead, Crystal Birch, Yasmin Furmie, and my dear friend Khumo La Badimo. I am missing so many, but that’s a good place to start!

Home is...
Where my family is and where I feel most comfortable in my skin.

Your favourite Joburg suburb, and why you choose it?
A toss-up between Westcliff and Parktown North. I am a sucker for tree-lined streets and nostalgia, there is something so old-world about these areas.

What is a surprising thing people might learn about Joburg by having a conversation with you?
That we have some of the best and most diverse restaurants in the world; that it is not some dystopian trauma fantasy; and that we have a lot of natural spaces to explore.
A visit to Nirox Sculpture Park is a must, according to Kalish Liedeman. Photo: Supplied.

What three things should a visitor not leave Joburg without seeing or experiencing?
The City Sightseeing Red Bus tour, a visit to Nirox Sculpture Park, and Rosebank and its surroundings are great places to explore some of our restaurants and bars.

Your favourite Joburg author or favourite Joburg book?
Endings & Beginnings: A Story of Healing by Redi Tlhabi (Tlhabi is a South African journalist, producer, author, and radio presenter). Also Diepsloot by Anton Harber (Harber is a South African journalist). 

One song on your Joburg soundtrack that either is about Joburg or makes you think about this city?
Biggest Curse by Original Swimming Party featuring Moonchild Sanelly.

The most memorable meal you have eaten in Joburg?
My very first date with my now husband at Tortellino d'Oro.

Favourite cocktail destination?
Proud Mary makes a mean gin martini, and I would say Sin + Tax for the more adventurous and decadent cocktails.

If you could buy one Joburg building which would it be?
I recently read an article in Visi magazine about the Johannesburg Gas Works site, and I believe the space can be used for so many imaginative projects.

If you were the Joburg mayor for one day (average tenure) what would you change?
I would change how local communities interact. We need more community centres that aren’t only based on religion. They need to be accessible, safe, and educational in a way that’s not boring or insincere. This is what I want to focus on once I graduate. Additionally, I would focus on investments in food schemes. More research is showing how important a balanced and protein-rich diet is for kids and their well-being as adults.
Boys of Soweto signature graphic print by Bob the Stylist, who Kalish Liedeman thinks is "the most stylish person in South Africa". Photo: Boys of Soweto via Instagram.

Favourite Joburg label, and why?
Boys of Soweto. I personally think Bob the Stylist (the founder of Boys of Soweto) is the most stylish person in South Africa. Not only is his brand worldly yet locally relevant, he is also a superb tailor with the best suits in the game.

What makes someone a Joburger?
When they tell you they’re a Joburger – preferably with pride – no need to be born here. It also helps to be active in a Joburg community.

What do you love most about Joburg?
The energy – cliché because it’s true. It’s also my home. We are all born into cities by mere chance, and many people don’t necessarily feel an attachment to them. However, I do believe I was born in the right place. Joburg is a massive part of my identity, and I do feel an ethereal connection to it.

What do you least like about Joburg?
The dry winters. But on a more serious note – failing infrastructure, terrible service delivery, and crime. It has such potential to be the city for all people. There is a bridging between classes that doesn’t exist in any other city in South Africa, and it should be celebrated while maintained.

Your number-one tip for a first-time visitor to Joburg?
It’s not a city you can come to without having done your research; otherwise, you’ll end up in vanilla tourist traps and on ‘poverty porn’ tours. There are many tours (check out our list of the best guided tours and experiences), dinner clubs, and spaces that celebrate our spaces and people without ‘othering’ them. Johannesburg is historic, relevant, and rather fabulous – you just need to know where to look.

One Joburg personality whom you would honour with the freedom of the city if you could, and why? 
Eusebius McKaiser, may he rest in peace. A fair, wise, and logical man (McKaiser was a South African political analyst, journalist, and broadcaster).
Cake and books are a wonderful combo at Olive & Plates inside Exclusive Books at Hyde Park Corner. Photo: Supplied.

The perfect weekend in Joburg includes...
Brunch at Olive & Plates Hyde Park, with a peruse through Exclusive Books at Hyde Park Corner. A beer at Milk Bar followed by a bagel from Get Bird in Birdhaven whilst taking a stroll at James and Ethel Gray Park – patting all the dogs in sight. I also adore 44 Stanley – lunch at Salvation Café and retail therapy at Crystal Birch and Me&B.

Three words that describe this city
Cultural, significant, and friendly.

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

#MyJoburg with Titi Mashele, Banditz Bicycle Club co-founder
#MyJoburg with Alastair Mclachlan, photographer
#MyJoburg with Bambo Sibiya, artist

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