non-european® started as a collaboration between Elizabeth, founder of the Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion Design, her husband Gideon Malherbe and young graduate Tarien Malherbe.
The brand was first labelled non-european® in 2008, deriving its name from an experience Elizabeth had during her very first visit to Europe where for the first time ever she had to stand in the ‘Non-European’ queue…
As a child, Elizabeth spent many days playing and being educated under a camel-thorn-tree. Being the only tree that could survive and provide shade in the semi-desert landscapes of the Northern Cape where she grew up, this tree played an important part in every aspect of their community’s lives. She explains that she “absolutely loved the tree, but there was the constant pricking of the thorns”. To her, this feeling was metaphoric of the absolute love she felt for her homeland, but yet the constant pain and struggle in her heart due to South Africa’s political situation.
Being the daughter of the lady who cooked for their family, Elizabeth’s best friend was often separated from her. Elizabeth never understood why her best friend could not buy sweets with her, why her best friend could not go with her to the beach and why her best friend could not play with her on the town’s tennis courts.
The pain she felt from a young age and also later in her life; was that she was not seen as African. During that time people were labelled either ‘European’ or ‘Non-European’. She was labelled ‘European’ after a country she never knew…
“I felt that I never knew my own identity, nor understood it.”
Standing in the “Non-European” queue during her very first visit to Europe at the age of forty, Elizabeth felt overwhelming joy: “I was so happy, I was thinking: YES! I am NON-EUROPEAN, I belong in Africa! I am Non-European, I have a green passport book. I am South African at last!”
This experience provided her with such joy that she wanted to do a range called ‘non-european’. Being in education at that stage, Elizabeth did not have the time to design and bring out ranges. She therefore decided to pass the concept on to one of her graduates, Tarien Malherbe.
The landscapes of the Northern Cape where Elizabeth spent her childhood being educated under a camel-thorn-tree and watching drive-in silver screen movies under starry skies, still inspire non-european® designers Louis and Tarien Erasmus (née Malherbe) today. Both being firmly rooted in Africa, their heritage sets the tone for non-european®’s design style.
From memories and heritage into the future: “The youth of today do not link a political archetype to non-european®. Their understanding of the brand name is ‘true-South African’, ‘not-copied’, which is wonderful because the brand’s aim is to build a new South African identity.”