Sustainable, South African and fashion forward: The Homestead uniforms

The Homestead is a luxury safari lodge like no other. Our strong ethical stance, our sheer pride in what we do and in who we are, make us strive to be the best safari lodge in South Africa.

And that is reflected in our staff uniforms. Every department in The Homestead functions as a non-hierarchical team made of professionals who are dedicated to working together to bring out the best in themselves and each other. They are committed to making this journey of a lifetime unforgettable — for our guests and for themselves.

Our staff uniforms express the perception of each member of our staff; of how they feel in their uniforms; of being proud of the wonderful journey that they are on; of feeling like ‘a million dollars’. From well-presented housekeepers to chefs to the mechanics and safari rangers, every staff member has a position of pride, no matter what they are doing. That is why all of our staff wear ethically created, sustainable, bespoke designs every day.

“It is so important to give everyone their ‘voice’ in terms of how they present themselves, and their pride in themselves and their work,” said Colleen Eitzen, of Colleen Eitzen Designs. She and her design team have been working with local seamstresses for decades; they are treated with the respect they deserve for being the master tailors that they are. Colleen and her team’s ethics have created solid and sustainable local foundations for their versatile, well-structured South African fashion designs.

This talented lady is one of the leading South African fashion designers, and she understands the ethos of The Homestead, which is why we chose Colleen Eitzen to design our staff uniforms. So, how did it all begin for her?

“When I was a very young kid my teacher told my mum that I would be an artist,” she said.

As a teenager she did not want to be an artist; then she found an art teacher who encouraged her. She realised that she had a spark that needed to be ignited, and it was. Colleen went to design college in Durban and in 1996 she started her own small retail outlet. At that time most people bought clothes from chain stores, but Colleen and three other designers started designing for local people. People really liked what they did, because it was something different, and it grew from there.

When South African Fashion Week began in 1997 it created a platform for South African fashion designers. Colleen Eitzen and her team also did their own shows in churches, coffee shops, and nightclubs.

“You name it, we were there,” she said. “In the last few years, I haven’t done many shows because of the pandemic, but I still want to.”

Colleen is extremely excited about creating the staff uniforms for The Homestead. She enthused: “We’ve got a lodge, my best friend Roche, from Egg Design said. I was really excited for her and before I knew it, she said ‘Will you do the designing for all of the staff uniforms?’ Next, I had an informative and inspiring meeting with Wayne Scholes in the Nambiti Private Game Reserve. I realised that now I must also do men’s wear for the first time! Wayne said that each person must have at least six or seven changes of clothing. They must feel and look fantastic in the clothes, proud to be a part of this very special team! The outfits must be comfortable but practical, exude confidence and style. We want the guests to take note of how wonderfully sexy, cool and chic the staff look, in keeping with the lodge itself. It was a larger-than-life project — an entire collection! I had to think about the functionality of the clothes; about the fabric and about what the people who wear it do. I had to use my 20-plus years of experience as a springboard to launch this entirely new work-in progress, even down to sourcing socks and shoes. The Homestead has inspired a lot of imagery for me, in terms of character building. The restaurant and bar staff outfits are almost theatrical, so I had to bring that out in terms of colours. It is pure storytelling through design.”

Colleen continued thoughtfully “The designs are based on the flora, fauna, and whole ecosystem that provides the foundation for the big five safari animals. I thought about the birds and animals I love, and how to bring it all together in the summer and winter uniforms.”

Two of the creatures dear to Colleen’s heart are living embodiments of the signature colours of The Homestead — rust and metallic blue. She said “There is quite a lot of spirituality in this project in terms of the animals. My parents were strong conservationists. My father made us pick up litter off the beach, so the whales and dolphins did not consume it. He had an adventurous spirit, and we went everywhere in South Africa and I got to know the creatures I love. My favorite bird is the African Hoopoe, it is very shy. We don’t see him very often. I love that bird. I chose that bird to represent The Homestead. His colours are black, white, and rust — earth colours. I saw him in our garden while I was working on the designs and it floored me, it was a sign.”

Another of her favorite animals is the blue-headed lizard — the South African Agama. The colour of its head is iridescent and ranges from lustrous royal blue to shining turquoise. She saw one on her way to the presentation of her designs and saw it too as a sign that it would go well, because a bird and a reptile that she loves were bringing their colours to The Homestead.

A mini fashion show to reveal the staff uniforms, took place at The Homestead site. “We have a short time to make an impression,” she said.

Her immaculate, well-thought-out South African fashion designs have certainly made a favorable impression on us, just as they have on the whole country. We think they will leave a lasting impression on our guests too!