Johannesburg – Over the past few weeks, a fierce debate has been raging over social media over which South African city is better: Johannesburg or Cape Town?
And while this is a subjective and often highly emotive topic, the founders of Joburg’s newest department store, We Are EGG, were so impressed with the City of Gold’s style and fashion that they decided to make Rosebank the home of their second local outlet.
“Johannesburg has always been on the radar of the founders of We Are EGG and one of the things that expedited the choice to open in The Zone @ Rosebank was the immense amount of feedback that we were getting on both social media, direct calls, etc, to say: ‘When are we opening this innovative concept in Johannesburg?’” co-founder Paul Simon explained.
Simon, who also founded the hugely successful Young Designers Emporium (YDE), which has stores across the country, believes that “there is a huge amount of innovation and creativity amongst the consumers in the Johannesburg market”.
“In terms of the typical Johannesburg shopper, I have been in the fashion industry for over 30 years and I have always felt that Cape Town was the fashion capital of the country, however, my mind has changed whereby I feel quite strongly that the Johannesburg consumers are trend setters at the moment.”
We Are EGG has a multidisciplinary offering in terms of home ware, fashion, jewellery, accessories and footwear, all under one roof. The first store was opened in Cape Town’s Cavendish Square in December 2020, during the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was opened by Simon as well as fellow retail pioneer Arie Fabian in partnership with Old Mutual.
The award-winning department store then officially opened its doors in the north of Johannesburg last month and Simon said there has been a resounding response since then from the city’s fashionistas and beauty enthusiasts.
“We Are EGG has been received exceptionally well by the Joburg market and it has even exceeded our expectations.”
We Are EGG is the first of its kind since Stuttafords, a chain of upscale department stores in South Africa which closed its doors in 2017.
It has been built on a similar model to the iconic UK-based Selfridges department store and stocks up to 180 brands, most of which are local.
“We are very proud of the fact that we are 80% local and only 20% international and this has been done purposefully whereby we feel that local brands deserve to have adjacencies and be displayed next to major international brands,” the retail pioneer told The Saturday Star this week.
“We at We Are EGG are passionate about being a platform for local brands, but feel strongly that there are certain international brands that we wanted to accommodate, in order to strengthen and balance our offering.”
One of the beloved local brands available at We Are EGG is Swazi-South African actress Amanda du-Pont’s Lelive. This range is developed by expert formulators and the brand’s mission is to make skincare that is clean, simple, effective and affordable while celebrating what makes Africa unique.
Rabia Ghoor’s cosmetics brand Swiitch Beauty also features at the department store and the former Forbes Young Achiever award recipient’s vision is to create an affordable beauty brand that is high in quality.
Other notable South African brands at We Are EGG include Goodleaf Wellness, Africa’s leading premium CBD brand, as well as SKOON, founded by South African engineer Stella Ciolli, which is heavily invested in using sustainable, natural, non-toxic, and clinically proven ingredients harvested on the continent.
But it’s not just We Are EGG’s brand abundance, visual aesthetic and beautifully curated 3 000m² space in Rosebank that makes it unique – its name makes it even more unique.
Simon explained that they wanted to incorporate the name of the store along with the idea of an egg.
“An egg is an incubator, everything comes from an egg, and at the time that we were re-imagining retail of the future, we were in the middle of a global pandemic.
“Many people felt that brick and mortar retail was dead or dying but we felt that considering EGG was a platform for particularly SMEs within the South African context, that the idea of EGG was appropriate,” he said.
“Everything comes from an egg. We wanted to be a place where ideas are born, and we wanted to be an incubator of some kind.”
Simon said that they also strive to bring the consumer a completely different shopping experience.
“We Are EGG is different to any other store in South Africa for a number of reasons,” he said.
“The first being our business model, which is effectively a platform for brands to showcase their products and services, whereas other retailers follow just wholesale or retail models. Secondly, we are one of the only unique department stores within South Africa.”
Following the success of We Are EGG in Johannesburg and Cape Town, Simon said that they now hope to expand their operations across the country.
“We would like us to be at the forefront of creating a platform for both local and international brands to retail their products in iconic locations and we would also eventually like to see a We Are EGG store perhaps beyond the shores of South Africa, perhaps in Europe,” he said.
“When I say this, this means expanding We Are EGG into an international market whilst utilising our locally based product, which I believe in my opinion can easily be accommodated in an overseas market.”