The different uses of Shwe Shwe.

“Shweshwe is the country’s number one fabric. It is the fabric most worn by South African women – it is the tartan of South Africa. South African women have been wearing it since the 1850s.” – Graham Leonard (Da Gama joint-MD)

Shwe Shwe fabric, a traditional South African cloth, has a distinctive look, feel, scent and even taste (yes, believe it or not one method to testing whether it is genuine shwe shwe is by tasting it!). This uniquely South African fabric was originally only produced in the indigo colour. Later colour additions included bright red and chocolate brown. Today, the original manufactures of the cloth, Da Gama Textiles, have added vibrant shades to the range such as lime green, turquoise, shocking pink, bright orange and yellow/gold. The shwe shwe fabric is printed under the “Three Cats” label. The colour and design combination make the shwe shwe fabric uniquely South African, contemporary and versatile. Here are some ways in which shwe shwe fabric can be used:

Some of the eye-catching prints and designs in the Three Cats shwe shwe range. Photographed at Style Fabrics in the Oriental Plaza.

Moses kitted with a shwe shwe mask and uniform, ready to serve you at Style Fabrics. Style fabrics in the Oriental Plaza is a stockists of the original Three Cats Shwe Shwe.

Shwe shwe fabric is no longer viewed as “old-fashioned”. This can largely be attributed to South African designers incorporating the shwe shwe fabric in their collections. Palesa Mokubung, Bongiwe Walaza and Amanda Laird Cherry are local designers who have used shwe shwe fabric.


We see traditional wedding dresses competing with haute couture bridal gowns. These couture garments are meticulously crafted by combining the traditional with the contemporary. The use of Shwe Shwe fabric with dutchess satins, laces and tuelles creates African Haute Couture.

Shwe shwe for the modern bride. A wedding dress mixing traditional shwe shwe with lace, tuelle and satin fabrics. (Source:

Summer trends and tips: Shwe shwe fabric is great for the summer. Not only are the colours vibrant and bold but the original shwe shwe fabric is made from 100% quality cotton, making it super cool to wear in hot summer weather. A bright, light and airy off the shoulder, tiered summer frock will have you trending this season.

If you’re a little bit more conservative and a full traditional dress is stepping out of your comfort zone, add a statement headwrap or accessorise with a shwe shwe handbag and matching shweshwe earrings.

Fabric Tip: Pre-wash your shwe shwe fabric to soften and shrink prior to sewing.

Home Decor & Lifestyle

The excellent quality, texture and colour range of the shwe shwe fabric make it suitable for soft furnishing, table scaping and so much more. Add an African ambiance to any space with trendy cushions, table runners and napkins. You can even upholster chairs and couches with this versatile fabric.

Summer trends and tips: Summer calls for outdoor entertaining. The bright colours are ideal for beautiful table runners and napkins. Mix and match prints and co-ordinate colours for a trendy and modern feel. Don’t be shy of colour, it can transform your space.

Shwe shwe fabric is so versatile. It can be used to make a variety of bags such as satchels, tote bags and purses. (Source:

Mixed set of three shwe shwe cushions (Source: Interior of Africa).

Fabric Tip: Scotch guard the fabric to make cleaning a breeze.

Shwe shwe fabric, attractive, versatile and authentically South African!

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