Photography / STUDIO e*

A legacy in Elsies

In 1946, two young immigrants named Leah and Edmund Castle, purchased a small piece of land in an industrial area of Cape Town.  They purchased a few sewing machines, some fabric and a number of scale production tools and started manufacturing ladies underwear.  It started out as a small operation, producing only a few hundred garments a year.  Leah and Edmund, both from small towns in Latvia, had sought refuge in South Africa, away from the political danger and anti-semitism that was mounting back home.

The factory they built is still there today and employs over 170 South Africans.  It is called Radeen Fashions and it is our family business. My father, Arnold, uncle Eddie and brothers David and Gary have continued the legacy started by my grandparents over 65 years ago.  They design and manufacture ladies clothing, selling to a range of South African high street stores, boutiques and corporates.  They have collaboratively nourished and developed the business, helping it grow and change with the (often difficult) times.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my visits to the factory.  Whenever I am in Cape Town I make a point to see the changes they have made and to visit some of the staff members.  It is a real testament to my family that so many of the people I recall from childhood are still employed at Radeen today.  Some have been at Radeen since before I was born.  I recall many of these loyal and loving staff members crying bitterly at my grandmother Leah’s funeral 8 years ago.  She worked at the factory till her early 90’s and was a dedicated founder till the day she died.

Just recently, the premier of Cape Town and head of the South Africa opposition party, the DA, Helen Zille was quoted on television saying that she buys her clothes from Radeen Fashions.  She is a regular customer and has also been known to tweet about her love for Radeen clothing!

confirmed! designer from ElsiesRivier “@helenzille: @CapeTown  Yes Radeen Fashions!” 

Photographically, I’ve also always been drawn to the factory.  I love the sharp angles of the machinery, the light that streams in from the large industrial-size windows, and amongst other manufacturing paraphernalia – the mannequins.  The photos below, are experimental prints that I developed in the darkroom.  I still love the unbeatable texture and tone you get from film.

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5 thoughts on “A legacy in Elsies

  1. Reading this brief story makes me feel as if i have the chance to see this family business grow and have had the opportunity to meet everyone involved in making it happen… Very intimate!
    It’s a bonus that i know the writer ; )

  2. I am very moved by this post and very proud of you. You captured the essence of the family business as well as the ethos of a hard-working, dedicated and loyal staff in a few well–chosen words. Added to this are your very interesting photographs showing your eye for detail, design and texture.
    Love you
    Mumsy

  3. proud to have “radeen fashions model” on my cv 🙂 still my favourite photo and alltime favourite princess dress! love xx

  4. It is truly amazing. And just think, Samuel and Brandon spend many happy hours playing hide-and-seek, fiddling with and finding old trinkets at their Grandfather’s desk, ‘working’ on a computer and enjoying being part of the tapestry. Even Anna has a button collection she put together in the stock room. Not to mention my ‘modelling’ days with 2 of my best friends…We still call ourselves the ‘radiant’ models- can’t remember who came up with that gem…

  5. Elana, that’s a lovely piece! I certainly know how dedicated and hard-working your brothers are to ensure a successful continuation of the proud family business!

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