#MyJoburg with Zydia Botes, textile designer and entrepreneur

14 Jun 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.

Zydia Botes is a dynamic entrepreneur and textile designer with a mission to pursue and cultivate a good life. It's a philosophy she has woven into the fabric of her businesses Something Good Studio, known as SMTNG Good and Romaria. You might recognise the distinctive design and prints of her labels. SMTNG Good creates woven blankets in collaboration with artists, while Romario is a fashion label. She came to Johannesburg in 2009 to pursue fashion design and has been thriving since. Botes is a natural collaborator, finding inspiration in connecting with people and places that ignite her curiosity. We were eager to find out more about what fuels her creativity in the city.
Entrepreneur and textile designer, Zydia Botes. Photo: Supplied.

SMTNG Good is a collaborative textile design studio based in Joburg featuring artwork from local illustrators and artists. Can you describe how it all works?
It’s quite an intuitive process. I choose to work and surround myself with people who fuel my creative mind and encourage me to think differently. We brainstorm ideas... creating stand-out textiles with a purpose. [Our aim is] to bring joy to every person who connects with the process; from the artist to our makers, to ultimately the client.

You also co-founded Romaria, a luxury knitwear label. What inspired the decision to make knitwear?
Fashion designer Carla Pinto cornered me in 2019 at the 100% Design Africa trade show while I was exhibiting Something Good Studio. She fell in love with our knitted artist-designed blanket collection. We decided to collaborate on a few knitwear pieces which were very well received, and here we are, five years later with our own brand. The fast-paced fashion industry was daunting at first. Luckily, we’ve managed to make our own rules to develop our knitwear pieces in a slower, sustainable manner.

"Joburgers are the coolest people! They leave you alone to do your thing, but they’re always happy to help if you’re in a pickle."

Congratulations on expanding Romaria into European markets. Why was now the right time to expand?
Thank you! Carla is originally from Portugal and she moved back to her home country in 2021. We were faced with two decisions: to call Romaria a day or tackle our global expansion.

We noticed you have a blog on the Romaria website where you and Pinto share your favourite travels, eats, and reads. Tell us more.
We’ve posted our Romaria and The City – Porto Edition and our Johannesburg Edition will follow soon... [Ed's note: We can't wait!].

Home is...
Where my cat and blankets are.

Your favourite Joburg suburb, and why you choose it?
Linden. It’s close to home and I’ve found a community there. I love to go for slow, sunrise runs in Delta Park, and I’m part of a casual boxing club – these activities aren’t complete without vibey Joburg coffees and chats with good friends and strangers who’ve become friends. It’s a lovely way to start a day.
Zydia Botes strolls in a cosmos-filled Delta Park while wearing a Romaria kimono. Photo: Supplied.

What is a surprising thing people might learn about Joburg by having a conversation with you?
Joburgers are the coolest people! They leave you alone to do your thing, but they’re always happy to help if you’re in a pickle. If you have time one day, I’ll tell you the story of when my car broke down in Australia. What a mission! This made me appreciate the spirit of Joburg’s people.

What makes someone a Joburger?
One word – tenacity.

What do you love most about Joburg?
It’s ever-evolving. I love discovering new delis, restaurants, and shops in unexpected places. Some stay, some go.

What do you least like about Joburg?
The decaying infrastructure and unpredictability of the city’s developments.

What three things should a visitor not leave Joburg without seeing or experiencing?
Experience the City Centre by bicycle with Kennedy Tembo's Microadventure Tours. If you can get your timing right, Delta Park is lush with cosmos in April, and the jacaranda trees fill the streets with purple in October. Lastly, shop at 44 Stanley and have [Joburg's best-voted] cheesecake at Salvation Café while you’re there.
Salvation Café at 44 Stanley is where you'll find the best cheesecake in Joburg according to the 947 Breakfast Club. Photo: Supplied.

Your favourite Joburg author or favourite Joburg book?
I love artist William Kentridge’s books. His work is fascinating. 

The most memorable meal you have eaten in Joburg?
"Memorable" can relate to a few things. To me, a memorable meal usually connects to an unexpectedly pleasant experience or the element of surprise. Some of the most recent ones where you will find me going back for the same thing include fruit salad and the best coffee at Fab Diner in Linden, super greens omelette and green juice at Fresh Earth in Delta Central. Fresh fish and chips at The Fish & Chip Shop at Victoria Yards. The best steak, burgers, and ribs in town at the old-school Thundergun Steakhouse in Randburg, and authentic Italian panino with coppa [a boneless pork shoulder, hand rubbed with spices and dry cured] and cheese at Orange Grove's Super Sconto.
Joburg may be inland, but that doesn't mean you can't find fresh fish and chips at Victoria Yards. Photo: The Fish & Chip Shop via Instagram.

If you could buy one Joburg building which would it be?
Hmmm… maybe the Theatre in the Park at Delta Park? I see the potential for something cool.

If you were the Joburg mayor for one day (average tenure) what would you change?
Gosh! One day is not enough! I would fix all the potholes and robots, house all the homeless people, and end load-shedding. Good luck to me.

One song on your Joburg soundtrack that either is about Joburg or makes you think about this city?
Makeba by Jain. It reminds me of a fun girls' road trip to Nirox Sculpture Park.

Favourite Joburg label, and why?
Hands down SMTNG Good Studio and Romaria in my opinion!

Your number-one tip for a first-time visitor to Joburg?
Joburg has a reputation for a reason. Keep an eye out. Stay street-smart. Make good decisions.

One Joburg personality whom you would honour with the freedom of the city if you could, and why? 
A collaboration between Schalk Bezuidenhout [ Bezuidenhout is a South African comedian] and The Kiffness [The Kiffness is a sometimes controversial South African musician, aka David Scott]. The Kiffness is not a Joburger I know, but it’s a special request, ok? I'd like him to make a song about the crazy things we witness as Joburgers daily. As an example,  the homeless people who become traffic pointsmen when the robots are out – it’s craziness, but we’re so used to it by now.

"Joburg is ever-evolving. I love discovering new delis, restaurants, and shops in unexpected places. Some stay, some go."

The perfect weekend in Joburg includes...
Can it be a long weekend? Then we can do all the things. On Friday, I’ll have tea and cake from The Pantry in Rosebank and shop at our studio in the suburbs. Fit in a haircut at Cellardoor Hair in Parkhurst or a facial at Africology. Then an early Friday night pizza at Coalition in Blairgowrie. Saturday starts with a morning run. Then a road trip to Nirox Sculpture Park. A stop along the way at the Culinary Table for brunch and herb garden inspiration and to grab a few goodies for a picnic. A Saturday night burger braai at home. Order a Farm Burger Box from Babylonstoren in advance and you’re good to go [Ed's note: We see they have an 'Ultimate Johannes Burger Box too...]. Sunday is for sleeping in. Then coffee at Plato and a tan by the pool with a journal and magazines.
Brunch at the Culinary Table in Lanseria is a must as part of Zydia Botes' perfect Joburg weekend. Photo: Supplied.

Three words that describe this city.
Die bangste ou ry laaste. [The guy who is most afraid rides last.]
It’s four words, forgive me.

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

#MyJoburg: David Mann, writer and arts journalist
#MyJoburg with Nickolaus Bauer, journalist and Dlala Nje co-founder
#MyJoburg with S'BO GYRE, rapper and performer

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


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