Story behind the Recycled in Africa Bags:

After seeing a pile of discarded tarpaulins and banners, we thought to ourselves, it’s an absolute sin that all of this P.V.C would land up being carelessly thrown away into the ocean or a landfill. Sadly to say, this is true, over 900 000 tons of P.V.C gets thrown into the ocean. So we began to think to ourselves, how can we give all of this P.V.C a second chance? Why not minimize the amount of pollution that our planet Earth is already fighting against? So we took up the challenge and decided to take waste and turn it into something that people use in their day to day lives. We found some safety belts and put them to the use of being strong handles, we then got our hands on some bicycle tubing, which came to the use as the perfect seam. By buying a Recycled in Africa bag, you are playing the role of taking 1KG of P.V.C out of the ocean. Not only does Recycled in Africa take trash and turn it into treasure by recycling, but we also create job opportunities for those who are unemployed by hiring locally, we have two trained women who seam our bags as well as two men who cut the P.V.C to perfection.


Having the highest ranked emerging economy on the continent, it’s quite clear that this country at the most southern tip of Africa, paints an impressive picture. Arresting as the land is, as with many places, it is mottled with problems. The world has watched us emerge from the bitter furnace of apartheid and then noted our lack of compassion and empathy when our asylum seeking neighbours were ostracised and dehumanised by us, the very people who were forced to suffer the same breed or intolerance and inhumanity.

Clutching a bright crumpled plastic bag with loud chequered patterning of the kind seen everywhere from China to Nigeria, packed to the brim with the few material possessions they own, the refugees, nomads and wanderers march towards the hope of salvation, despite their hardships.

Unglamorous and functional, these bags have come to be known as tools of utility for those migrating from one country to another in search of a better life for themselves. I recognised a need to have a brand that resonates with these individuals whilst creating a nostalgic feeling, By repetition of the tartan pattern and colouration on the bags, Dennis reintroduced the aesthetic paired with a concept embracing the recreational everyday use of it by a broad demographic of people.

Having studied at Lisof and trained at Strangelove, worked for the likes of David Tlale for whom he headed the Exodus menswear range in 2007, Stoned Cherrie accessories department 2009 for which he designed bags for Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, Dennis Chuene then decided to venture on his own and started Vernac bags

Vernac is short for vernacular, and a vernacular is the native language or native dialect of a specific population. An untold story needed to be told in an array of dialects of not only the people in our land, but all lands, and thus Vernac was born. To encompass the vast number of indigenous languages spoken by the disadvantaged from all over the world

In 2011 he moved to Cape Town to find a wealth of industry resources which afforded him the opportunity to create a variety of fabrications to offer product diversification. Now no longer just bags, Vernac is now a fully-fledged apparel brand with greater product offering. The bright crumpled plastic bag with loud chequered patterning of the kind seen everywhere from China to Nigeria is now available in wool as a sweater, cotton as a shirt, bull denim as a jacket, canvas as a backpack and finished off as subtle detail on hems (only visible when turned up), under collar of coats shirts and jackets as well as home wear pieces like scatter cushions.

Through progressive product growth and innovation, Vernac serves to celebrate Africans in the Diaspora as well as the rags to riches of the previously disadvantaged by making use of “the bright crumpled plastic bag with loud chequered patterning of the kind seen everywhere from China to Nigeria”. Thus to have name these emblems of tortured migrating souls, Dennis, would be claiming a historic aesthetic value for personal enrichment.

Why the brand started: Ballo was started when I saw some wooden sunglasses and thought, “that’s pretty cool, I reckon I could do that”. I did some market research and the biggest problem I found with existing wooden frames in the market was durability. Wooden frames typically couldn’t be fit with prescription lenses and would break pretty easily when put under any strain. I then started my Ballo and after 6 months of R&D with a local engineer, I was happy with styling, quality and durability. All our frames can be fit with prescription lenses and are as durable as any other quality eyewear frames. Sustainability was another core concern and we addressed this when considering materials. The materials we settled on for our frames is a combination of wood veneer offcuts (from local furniture manufacturers) and a recycled paper material, which are laminated together at 95 degrees celsius under 40 tons of pressure with a bioresin.

How I keep it local: Ballo is all about local, every pair is made in Cape Town, by locals. Even the name is local, to me anyway, Ballo comes from my last name, Barnes, and my Mum’s maiden name, Gallo, combined. With sustainability being one of my core principles I aimed to source every material locally (not always possible, but we try), we make every pair of eyewood by hand with love in Cape Town (being made by hand, it follows that to increase production, we must employ more people. Luckily we have continued to grow and I’m proud to say I’m doing my little bit to combat South Africa’s biggest challenge, unemployment). We also support and work with various local NGO’s and NPO’s on a variety of projects to give back to the local community and are embarking on a skills development and empowerment project with women’s shelters in Salt River and Nyanga.

What inspires me: Natures incredible colours, diversity and adaptability. The reason I love Cape town, is our incredible proximity to nature, I can be in the sea or on a mountain in 10 minutes. I find similar inspiration in the people of our country- incredibly diverse, colourful and resourceful. Just walking down the street in Woodstock gives me great joy: smiling strangers, seeing peoples faces light up when you greet them in their native tongue, seeing women in their colorful ShweShwe prints.

A perfect day for me starts early, as the sun rises so shall I. A hot cup of Rooibos tea with raw ginger slices, a lemon wedge, and a touch of honey with the dunk of a home made rusk is what kick starts my engine. A healthy diet leads to a healthy outlook on life in my world, which results in effective creativity and the needed energy.

I like to be busy and generally always have things occupying my time, whether it be working on new designs and managing my businesses, searching for another perfect remote getaway with untouched waves, or spending time with my family, I always have things to get stuck into and keep my passions alive. The balance between all of these is the key to a healthy lifestyle and mind. They are where I find my inspiration and vital to my success. The lifestyle I live is the essence of what my brand is built on and essentially stands for.

Many of the products I create come about due to a personal need in my day to day life. I am always analysing the structures and make up of the things that surround me, and how they could potentially be improved. Very often there are things I need or desire in my world, which do not exist. This is generally my starting point, and where things begin to take shape. Ideas will begin to bounce around my mind, in and out, eventually the strong ones remain and the weak ones lost. From here the sketch pad comes out and the conceptual ideas are are transported onto paper, reworked and understood, before being dialled into the computer and refined for prototyping, and then production.

Some of my most recent creations consist of an tablet stand, which is a simple single part that allows for horizontal and vertical orientation of the tablet and multiple screen angles.

A clean three part laptop stand that encourages a better posture through ergonomics and keeps your laptop cooler by encouraging air flow under and around your device, it then packs up into a compact and durable form.

Laptop and iPad sleeves that protect your devices, and offer an exterior compact storage pocket made from upcycled advertising billboard mesh.

‘Amped’ speaker is a natural wooden amplifier for your smartphone that requires no power other than the sounds of your phone. The sound is channeled in a particular way through the wooden form, which results in an amplified sound output.