In the spirit of February, the month of love, we celebrate the power of collaboration. It’s about sharing the love for your art, the attraction of creative force and being better together Words: Bianca Agenbag
In 2013 brothers Roal and Léan Boezaart’s entrepreneurial spirit and love for design encouraged them to start Freedom of Movement, a brand that specialises in the design and manufacturing of custom-made leather products, with the goal of creating a proudly SA brand that represents the spirit of freedom and individuality. Seven years down the line – that is exactly what they’ve achieved.
However, every successful brand has a secret ingredient and for Roal, it’s his girlfriend and partner in crime, Jessice Crowther. As a qualified architect, she has become the personal interior designer for all stores, bringing her personal touch to the brand. Together they are putting FOM on the world map with products that are guaranteed to last a lifetime (much like their love). We visited them at their Cape Town headquarters (109 Bree St.)
CSA: What’s in the name?
Roal: Freedom of movement is something my dad used to say. It’s about having the freedom of making your own decisions. I thought it fits well with the brand as the products give you the freedom to explore, the freedom to do what you are passionate about.
What about the location and space appealed to you?
Roal: FOM started in Stellenbosch, we have a shop in Dorp Street and our workshop used to be there too. As the brand grew we needed retail space in Cape Town and all our suppliers are here. We were driving around the city and I saw this space. It wasn’t for rent so I chatted to the guy next door and he said we could take it over from them. I love it – it really suits our vibe and the location is perfect.
The shop looks really cool. Who designed it?
Jess: Haha, I did. The look and feel were already established before I came on board so my brief was to see what we can do with what already existed.
Roal: Yes, she does all the store designs which are really nice because we basically have a personal architect!
Jess: We want every shop to be an experience in itself. For example, say you’re in Durban (they hope to open a shop there soon) you would be like ‘I just want to see what the Durban FOM shop looks like over here’, thus attracting people not only for the product but also for the space.
What music is playing?
Jess: It depends on his mood!
Roal: Usually something like Organic House. Creating the right atmosphere is very important…
You studied Civil Engineering! How do you go from that to FOM?
Roal: I’ve always been interested in fashion and I have a creative side. I started making clothes for schools and residences at university and for a res reunion I made a leather bag and people loved it. I realized that there was a market for it so basically I saw the gap and took it. It was always one of my dreams to start a proudly South African brand!
What has been your career highlight up until now?
Jess: It’s been over three years since the brand’s inception so there are lots.
Roal: In 2016 I went to the Edinburgh Fashion Festival (all expenses paid). It was a really cool experience to see what they do over there.
Is FOM available overseas?
Roal: Yes, we have a base in Australia and Amsterdam. At the moment it’s only online platforms but we are looking to open a store in Amsterdam.
All your bags have names. What’s the deal?
Roal: Naming the products make orders much more straightforward. We also wanted to give every bag a ‘personality’- it’s like your life companion.
Jess: Yes, for example, friends and family always refer to their “Bobby”, not their backpack. We also do competitions where people send in names to win the particular bag. Other than that all names are completely random.
What products do you have?
Roal: Our main thing is leather products such as backpacks, laptop pouches, travel bags and a range of handbags. We try to keep the design simplistic and don’t want to expand on it too much but we have started to incorporate add-ons like caps, t-shirts, watches, aprons, belts etc. The idea is to create a lifestyle brand.
What is the biggest compliment you have received?
Roal: Quality is super important to me so it’s very satisfying when a client comes back and compliments us on the quality of our products.
Any new exciting things we should watch out for?
Roal: There are a lot of new things happening but I don’t want to say too much about it, haha. We are currently working on a shoe design and one cool jacket, but we don’t want it to turn into a clothing brand, so just one or two items per year. Sunglasses are also in the works.
Where can people get their hands on FOM products?
Roal: We have stores in Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Pretoria, and Mall of Arica. They can order online as well.
What is your personal fav?
Probably the Ted or the Bobby.
Any famous people wearing FOM?
Rugby: Jesse Kriel, AB de Villiers, Duane Vermeulen, Frans Malherbe, Handré Pollard
Cricket: Faf du Plessis
Golf: George Coetzee, Brandon Stone
Musicians: Jack Parow, Francois van Coke, The Vanilla, December Streets
Other: Radio Raps and MasterChef SA winner Kamini Pather
Which brand do you admire?
I look up to the American brand, Tanner Good because that is the level we are working towards.
What brands do you wear?
Jess: Roal doesn’t really like shopping because nothing is good enough quality for him, haha! That’s one of the reasons he started doing leather.
Any secret talents?
Jess: He raps (laughs) and he’s a good cook.
3 things you can’t live without?
Jess: Braai hahaha!
Roal: Yes, braai, sport and music
Most adventurous thing you have ever done.
Roal: I did bridge swinging in Zambia … I will never do it again!