Sealand Gear Opens its First Experience Store
SA's sustainable outdoor and surf brand, Sealand, has upgraded from a kiosk in the V&A Waterfront to its first store.
Sustainable products and fashion are more than just a trend - they are extremely good for the planet. One local accessories brand that epitomises sustainability perfectly is Sealand Gear, which was honoured with the Maker-to-Market award at the Design Foundation Awards this year.
Founded in 2015, the outdoor and surf store makes high-quality products using upcycled materials that include old yacht sails. And after years of trading at a kiosk in Cape Town's V&A Waterfront, the brand has now opened its first standalone store in the city's developing Dock Road Junction.
The brand calls the new space an 'experience store' as it is more then a place where you can buy its products. It is a space where you can learn about the brand and its sustainability practices. As an outdoor and surf brand, durability and function are an important component of Sealand. But its products are also highly fashionable and practical, giving them wide-reaching appeal. The Sealand range includes, bags, wallets, sunglasses, keychains and apparel. We caught up with the co-founder and co-owner of Sealand, Mike Schlebach, to find out more about the new 'experience store'.
5 Minutes with Sealand Co-owner Mike Schlebach
Was there a particular moment or event that sparked the idea of upcycling old materials into premium products?
I had worked with another brand that turned old yacht sails into bags, so we didn't develop the concept. However, through my experience working with old sails, I knew that just upcycling one type of material is not sustainable when you want to scale up – and having one type of material won't satisfy a more diverse set of tastes. So now at Sealand, we manufacture high-quality products from several different types of materials, which allows for better scalability and also offers more choice to our customers.
You were selling from a kiosk in the V&A Waterfront. How long did it take for you to find the perfect spot for your store, and how did you know when you had found it?
The V&A kiosk represents our only direct physical retail from day one, and has been an integral part of our business. The kiosk, however, does not offer us much opportunity to tell our story and showcase our products properly. My co-founder Jasper Eales and I have always known that we need a proper store and have had our eye out for something in either the Cape Town City Bowl or another spot within the Waterfront precinct.
We had checked out many different opportunities over the past few years and nothing stuck, but when this Dock Road Junction option became available, we knew right away that it was where we wanted to be. We really liked the idea of being positioned smack bang in the middle of two South African iconic venues (V&A Waterfront and the city of Cape Town). The store has great visibility and is an attractive space, and our neighbours are going to include Apple. Dock Road Junction is going to be a great zone when it's complete.
You mentioned that in addition to selling Sealand Products, the store will be a space for talks and events. What types of events are you hoping to host, and are there any planned in the next few weeks?
We currently have an event running in the 'Select' section of our store, where you can make your own Toastie (toiletry/utility bag). This will run for the next six weeks or so. We are busy planning our schedule after that, but we plan on partnering with our ambassadors and allowing them to use the space to showcase the projects they are working on.
What do you want to impart to customers who buy Sealand products?
It is not easy turning waste material into high-quality products, and it's important for us to tell our customers a little bit about the people who have made their bag. We want people to buy Sealand products not only because of the social and environmental connotations, but also (and mostly) because they like the design and quality.
Now that the store is open, what is the next step for the Sealand brand?
We have an updated website going live in the next few weeks that will offer our customers a more user-friendly experience. We are also planning on opening a new retail store in Johannesburg in 2020, and then we are focussing a lot on growing our export market through high-end fashion retailers in Europe, the USA and Asia. It is a very exciting time to be a Sealander.