Mercury: Organic bamboo beats the heat

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A write-up about what Boody is, why you should wear it, and a few business tips from the faces behind the brand.


Colleen Dardagan

Wearing a long-sleeved black vest on a midsummer’s day in Durban is tantamount to suicide by heat stroke. But if the vest is made of certified organic bamboo, is designed in Australia and distributed by two South Africans living in the city, the product must be cool. In an attempt to test the marketing message on a wholly organic clothing line that’s gone viral in South Africa, the Network team donned the vest on the hottest day this week – temperatures were north of 35 degrees. The garment did not raise a sweat.

Married couple and business partners Richard Frankel and Nick Stein, who have a long history success in the lingerie supply industry in South Africa, brought Boody, the Organic Bamboo Eco Wear, to South Africa in June last year, the duo also have the distribution rights for the rest of Africa.

Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet. It requires no fertilisers or pesticides, and no irrigation compared with thirsty cotton which needs about 20 000 litres to produce just one kilogram of fibre. The plant is harvested like grass, and produces 30 times more a hectare than cotton. And the reason a February day in Durban is a breeze in the fabric is because it has a heap of ‘’micro-gaps’’ which provide ventilation and moisture absorption. The feel is soft, luxurious and light as a feather.

Stein and Frankel, who spent some years in Australia, returned to South Africa in 2005. With their combined business experience they started their lingerie distribution company, Girly Things, from the spare bedroom of their flat. ‘’It was about that time that South Africa’s textile industry collapsed. Most of the items we were distributing were made in China,’’ Frankel said. In 2006 when the South African government put the brakes on clothing imports from China, Frankel said, their company came to a ‘’screeching halt’’. The couple quickly evolved their business. Their success is made evident by the presence of their brands in South Africa’s top retail stores. The bamboo fabric range is a step further in the evolutionary process, they say.

Stein hails from the corporate environment and has extensive business management skills, while Frankel has a long-standing career in the apparel market. The years they spent in Australia had given them exposure to international markets which they said gave them an edge. Stein said locally produced clothing was starting to pose a challenge to imports, particularly with the weaker rand and because shorter lead times provided manufacturers with more flexibility to meet in-season trading opportunities. But in the lingerie business, the technology and expertise to make a bra, for example, largely did not exist in the country. ‘’It’s very expensive to set up,’’ Frankel said. ‘’In fact, it has been said if you can make a bra, you can build a bridge.’’

‘’The Australians really brought into the brand and it has just taken off. And there is so much more to come; a Boody baby and active wear range.’’ And now South Africans from all over the country are catching on too. ‘’There is a massive pool of consumers who are aware and wanting to support environmentally responsible products,’’ Stein said.



Business tips from Stein and Frankel:

  • Stick to doing what you know.
  • Clearly understand your skill sets.
  • Work with others who have complementary skills sets to yours.
  • Align your values with that which you sell or make.
  • Constantly re-evaluate objectives.
  • Keep learning all the time.
  • Understand global trends.
  • Keep a beady eye on the market.
  • Build strong and mutually beneficial relationships.

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