South African fashion brand Romaria is knitting its success story on the global stage. IQOQO sits down with founders Carla Pinto and Zydia Botes to uncover their inspiring journey in the world of fashion. From cozy knitwear to empowering women-led businesses, Romaria is setting its own rules for style.
By Garreth van Nierkerk
South African fashion brands have truly found a new footing in the global knitwear market over the last two decades, with design-centric brands like Romaria and Something Good Studio just two of the local labels who are now exporting their pieces across the globe – all of which is manufactured primarily with locally-grown materials, and feature pattern designs by local artists.
IQOQO caught up with Romaria founders Carla Pinto and Zydia Botes, who began the brand in 2019 in Johannesburg to make “effortlessly cool statement pieces that we wear ourselves” to get inside their studio, and understand how this inspiring duo thinks about business, creativity and what it takes to build a global design following.
Why did you start Romaria?
Romaria started out as a very successful collaboration. We’ve tested reactions by developing a small collection of beautifully made, exclusive knitwear that we wanted to wear ourselves for any occasion. Our intention was to make life easy when it comes to deciding what to wear; combining luxury, comfort and versatility.
The response received was incredible and that encouraged us to partner up and to start a brand. The reaction proved that we could make an impact in the lives of others by doing what we believe in.
The fashion industry can be daunting, but we’ve decided to make our own rules by creating nonseasonal, high-quality, statement, timeless small collections suited for all body shapes, ages and genders.
It was a dream for us that we were fully committed to pursue.
What is the reason you focused on knitwear in particular?
We are on a mission to prove that there is nothing more comfortable, versatile and sophisticated to wear all year round.
We love collaborations so having the freedom to develop and translate exclusive patterns alongside different artists and designers is thrilling.
The process of developing knitwear is exciting, we’re always learning. It is far from easy and sometimes can be long and exhausting, but knowing that we are on the right side of the industry and that we can make a difference in someone’s life is the validation that keeps us going.
The brand has started expanding into global markets. What has the international reception been to the work you do?
We are just starting so the hopes are high because we trust our work and couldn’t be more proud of our product, our process, our values and our brand. The orders we’ve sent abroad have been very well received. Lots of love and compliments coming our way which is another stamp of approval that Romaria should be available worldwide.
As two women working in business, you’ve focused your business on working with, and empowering other women. How do women-led businesses do things differently, and why was it important to you that your business pursue this direction?
We take the human side very seriously, people matter to us and we know that building a business based on relationships and having the option of choosing who to work with (women or men), is an absolute blessing.
Within our team, we are all very different girls and add completely different things to the business, but we truly understand each other. You can’t explain this kind of sisterhood! As a team of girls, we get so excited to celebrate every small victory, because every small step is important; from sharing experiences to being generous and kind and listening to each other, to inspire and to get inspired by each other (I could go on and on).
By being aligned, it allows us to quickly adapt to new situations and constant challenges.
We all know that as girls life isn’t always easy, but for us as a team, the most important goal is to keep a healthy balance between business and fun.
You’ve both had significant success since launching, How do you foresee growing your business in future, and what do you hope to see in the next five years?
We want the world to know and desire Romaria. Our focus is to grow the brand not only through our online store but also via striking worldwide stockists. Our tribe is growing and we get so excited to see clients all over the globe, loving and representing Romaria in their own unique way.
It is a dream to do what we love while somehow inspiring others, knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of our clients. Feeling confident in your own skin while wearing something as beautiful, comfortable and versatile as Romaria is a magical recipe that will uplift any person, even if it’s as small as receiving a compliment that makes your day (which happens all the time by the way!). The world needs more of that.
Follow their journey on Instagram: @Romaria_knitwear