Their love for quality, authenticity and Africa has seen them master a unique look and create a bespoke fashion label perfect for chic, coastal living.
Meeting people for the first time in a coffee shop is often slightly awkward. Trying to figure out who they might be and avoid walking up to the wrong table . . . you get my drift. This was not the case when I met the two sisters-in-law from Elula – a Simbithi-based, 100% pure linen fashion wear range that launched a year ago.
When I saw two stylish ladies, both in their signature linen blouses (one an earthy tone and the other a crisp, white version) casually tucked into sexy jeans, a leopard print belt just visible on the one and a cute, animal print scarf tied in the other’s long hair – I knew I had obviously found Pippa Simpson and Angela Otto.
“We have always had the same wardrobe and look – African, earthy, natural and neutral,” says Pippa while sipping her iced coffee.
The two fashion-lovers left the corporate world when they became mothers and decided to start a small business to stimulate their minds while allowing them the flexibility they needed to be hands-on moms. “We wanted to do something we were passionate about and could do holistically. We both love fashion and chose linen because we adore the look and how easy it is to wear – slip it over your bikini, salty toes and wet hair and off you go, or, pair it with jeans, a belt and leather sandals.”
When they started doing their research however, they were not met with the greatest enthusiasm. “We were told we shouldn’t go for linen because it is for a niche target market – but that exclusive market is exactly what we wanted. We are not interested in a mass market,” says Angela, who has two boys (three-year-old Connor and three-and-a-half month-old Ramsay).
They went ahead with their idea and decided to name their business Elula – which is Zulu for basic, uncomplicated and designed by nature. With a minimal budget they placed their first order of about 60 items. Now, their orders have grown to around 300 men’s and women’s wear items stocked in boutique stores countrywide.
“We generally make what we like and we genuinely believe our range consists of wardrobe essentials, as opposed to nice-to-haves. We pride ourselves on the quality of our clothes. Finding the right pattern to create a flattering fit and working out all the small details to get the items just right is a super tedious process, but the end result is amazing,” says Pippa, mom to eight-month-old Gray.
They have created a minimalist, trendy yet timeless and effortlessly chic look with their casual blouses and hipster-infused shirt dresses while dropping limited edition items such as the night shirt and now a cami and trousers.
“We stick to our earthy tones and every now and then add a pop of colour. We have gained confidence now – before we would take a week to decide on a colour. We have learnt that often the boldest colour is the most popular and going for something different is worth the risk.”
Five fashion Q’s with Elula:
1. What are your ideal must-have wardrobe essentials? Leather sandals, weathered/torn jeans and a linen shirt…with a touch of leopard in any shape or form. We both have an obsession with leopard print!
2. Why the linen love-affair? I think it is the imperfect beauty of it that we love most. The crinkles and the crumples make it authentic and uncomplicated – it is everything we stand for. We love how each piece of linen is unique and the natural composition and look of it.
3. Any tips to keep the linen look fresh? When you hand wash it, toss in some salt to keep the colour looking crisp and prevent fading. Having said that, we have never had any complaints about our colours going over time.
4. Describe your style in three words… Coastal African flair.
5. Which celebrity’s style are you most inspired by? We love Meghan Markle. She is fresh and not as conservative as Kate. Meghan wore torn jeans and a white shirt with a belt to Wimbledon – amazing! We also adore Stella McCartney. Her style is quite simple yet bold.
Details: Follow them on Instagram @elula.wear or shop at Unison at Flanders Mall, Mount Edgecombe or Willow and Ruby at Sage Centre, Salt Rock.
Text: Elana Wagner Photos: Courtney Warren Photography