Not short on local flair
Couple’s funky Shweshwe board shorts are masterfully handmade
Nicola Pike had no idea that having her surfer husband nag for a pair of handmade board shorts would bring her back to her passions and be the start of a new, exciting and proudly local venture; the Gquma Surf Apparel brand.
The brand was born in December 2018 with Nicola’s sewing skills and the board shorts expertise of her husband, Nick.
Together, the couple have designed funky, practical and super-comfortable Shweshwe pants, which are handmade by Nicola at the family’s Gonubie home.
“It’s just me and my sewing machine in our garage,” smiled Nicola, 50.
“My work contract came to an end last year and at my age I didn’t even know where to start looking for something else or if I’d find anything.
“A close friend of mine told me to look at what I had, what I was good at and what I enjoyed and Nick had been asking for a pair of baggies for a while.
“The two things just came together and sparked all of this,” said Pike, who is a former Belgravia art student and studied fine art in Port Elizabeth.
“I’ve been sewing forever and I’ve always been creative and loved art, but I never saw myself doing this.
“I even remember saying that I never wanted to sew for a living,” she laughed.
As a graduate, Nicola found work in the printing industry and has since worked in design, advertising, as a personal assistant and in administrative roles.“For me, it feels as if I’ve come full circle and I’m so thankful to have found my way back into the creative world.“It’s not like making prints or paintings, but it’s still art and I get to work with colours and patterns, which I love,” said Nicola.From the material used to the afro-wearing mermaid logo and the Xhosa brand name, the shorts are a uniquely Eastern Cape product – something that both Nicola and Nick are extremely passionate about and proud of.The vibrant Shweshwe fabric is sourced locally from Da Gama Textiles in Zwelitsha, while various components of the shorts, including the logo, embroidery and even the pocket eyelets are designed, made and added to the pants by local creatives and service providers in East London.“It shouts Eastern Cape and that’s the point,” said Nick, 58, who had everything to do with the practicality of the pants and the brand’s name.“Gquma is a Xhosa word and it refers to the sound of the sea. It’s an onomatopoeic word, it sounds like the crashing of the waves as they reach our coastline,” said Nick, before showing off his own pair of bright red Gquma baggies with the convenient pleated pockets on both sides.While there are other materials better suited for board shorts, Nicola said Shweshwe was the best to illustrate the brand’s ode to the province.“I love the patterns and the colours of Shweshwe and that it’s unique to the area.“I couldn’t think of material that would represent and celebrate the culture of the Eastern Cape better.“Everyone recognises the fabric and I’ve had people of all races come up to me and admire the shorts,” said Nicola.Made to order, each pair of pants is carefully crafted, and while the goal is not to compete with big brand names, Gquma has already received support from friends, family, locals and even some buyers from the Canary Islands via social media.“I make on order so it’s not like I’m mass- producing 600 pairs of the exact same shorts every day.“They are all different colours and patterns and making a new pair for someone is always fun and interesting,” said Nicola.Although sewing was originally not in Nicola’s life plan, she is loving it.“We always wanted to have our own business one day and it is tough, but if you enjoy what you do, it’s very fulfilling,” said Nicola who is planning to add women’s Shweshwe mini skirts to the product list soon.Nick said most of his family were artistically inclined and that he was very happy to have found his own artist.“My dad hand-carved the wooden oars that hang in our living room and there are multiple pictures and paintings of my sisters and of Nicola’s hanging up around the house.“I definitely have a thing for artists,” Nick laughed.“Nicola is the ultimate runaround mom and she is the driver of the business.“It’s great to see her back doing what she enjoys.”Visit the Gquma Surf Apparel FaceBook page to order your very own pair...