K-Way has become the ubiquitous brand of the South African winter, and the easiest way to recognise compatriots in foreign countries. The triangular logo seems to be everywhere.
The clothing brand, which is part of Cape Union Mart, was founded in 1981. Products are manufactured in the Cape Town suburb of Ottery, where more than 200 staff produce 40,000 garments a month.
It is much beloved by its fans…
But as a favourite of the suburban classes, K-Way is also often the subject of ribbing on social media:
While there is also a popular 50-year old French outdoor clothing brand named K-Way, the local brand name has no relation to the European one.
Instead K-Way comes from “Mister Krawitz’s way” – and refers to the late Philip Krawitz, who founded Cape Union Mart in 1933.
Originally an “army and navy store”, the first outlet in Cape Town supplied visiting troops, whaling ships, and fishermen with all kinds of merchandise during the Second World War.
According to a Cape Union Mart spokesperson, customers started referring to Krawitz as “Mr K”. Known for his product knowledge, commitment to go the extra mile and focus on a great retail experience, “to this day, we do things the K-Way”, the spokesperson says.
Arthur Krawitz took over the business from his father in the late 1940s, and the company started to focus on non-seasonal clothing: in summer, Cape Union Mart sold winter clothing to South Africans heading overseas, and vice versa. It became the first importer of Levi jeans into South Africa.
The current chairman Philip Krawitz, the grandson of the founder, joined the company in 1970.
In 2015, Philip Krawitz made headlines after receiving the global Yakir award from Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, the official fundraising organisation for Israel.
Krawitz told the South African Jewish Report that he believed the award was because he spearheaded the local fundraising efforts for Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 military operation in Gaza.
In 2011, Andre Labuschagne was appointed as CEO of Cape Union Mart and the company has since grown to 140 stores, including the Poetry and Old Khaki brands.
The group has more than 2,000 employees in South Africa, and is the largest unlisted clothing retailer in the country.