African print dresses

Meet African Style Story. A unique South African fashion label that reflects the diverse cultures experienced by its owner, Portuguese born Carla Pinto who now resides in Johannesburg. Since launching in 2016, African Style Story has become synonymous with vibrant prints and feminine, comfortable dresses with a hint of sophisticated sexiness.

It’s clear that Carla loves fashion and loves making beautiful clothes for an appreciative customer who she understands all too well. This is a busy, modern woman who demands style and comfort from her clothes while she goes about her fast-paced day. “To me, designing clothes is all about empowering women. Making them feel beautiful and confident. Helping them look elegant and sophisticated, and always comfortable throughout their busy days.”


Carla Pinto’s African journey began in 2004 when she moved to Mozambique as a brand consultant on a 2-year contract. Long story short, she was so inspired by the vibrancy of the continent, she quit her job and started her first fashion label “Ideias a Metro”. Carla has always loved and had a keen interest in fashion and is emphatic that Africa changed her life. Had she not moved to Mozambique all those years ago, she might very well still be a brand consultant.

Ideias a Metro grew quickly and showed at both Mozambique and Lisbon Fashion Weeks. After 8 years in Mozambique Carla briefly moved with her husband to the US for a couple of years. She took this opportunity to finally indulge her passion and study fashion. When, after 18 months, her husband received a job offer back in Joburg, it was happy karma and she found herself back on the continent that inspired her to follow her dream. A couple of years later, in 2016 African Style Story launched with its debut “Folklore” collection at South African Fashion Week (SAFW).

It’s all in the print

While Carla has become known for designs that are feminine and easy-to-wear, it’s her unique, cross-cultural prints that stand out as the pulse of every African Style Story collection. Carla’s affair with Africa started when she first fell in love with the traditional African prints she saw in the markets of Mozambique. She felt, however, that they needed a bit of a refresh and injection of modernity to make them more accessible to a broader market.

African print clothing
African Style Story prints from the various earlier collections

Taking inspiration from her Portuguese heritage, she has managed to fuse colourful cultures and create her own unique brand of modern African prints. Each print has a story and is very much the product of teamwork says Carla. “I first choose a theme, and then my creative process evolves very organically. Once I have the shapes and colours in my head, I sit down with my graphic design team and (we) start working on my prints. It’s always (the result of) teamwork.”

Passionate about local fashion

Like Equilibio, Carla Pinto is passionate about local design and supporting the African fashion industry. Her Ideias a Metro label was the first fashion label to receive a “Made in Mozambique” accreditation. All the African Style Story fabrics and garments are produced in Johannesburg.

She hopes to play a part in changing one of the most significant challenges faced by all South African designers. To change the mindset of a local market that doesn’t instinctively shop local. “We need to educate South African consumers that, by buying local, they are making South Africa a stronger country,” she says.


African Style Story SS2019
African Style Story Spring/Summer 2019 collection at SAFW

Equilibrio is smitten with this latest collection. We asked Carla about her inspiration for the prints which feature ice-creams, blue hearts, a graphic geo print and storks. “These are very personal prints for me” says Carla. “There are basically 2 central themes. The ice-cream and blue hearts are 2 different plays on the African Style Story monogram – so these are very exclusively African Style Story.” The geo and storks are inspired by another of Carla’s favourite places on earth, Comporta, a beautiful seaside village in Portugal. “The geo print represents open doors. The direct translation of Comporta into English is “with door”. So basically, these shapes are open doors – we played around with this concept until we created a cool, timeless geo print. And the storks are quite simply a symbol of the village of Comporta!”

Shop the runway on Equilibrio


Take a moment to watch this video and view the full African Style Story SS2019 collection on the SAFW runway.


Next in the growth of the brand, has been the development of a luxury swimwear range in 2019. “I searched around and I noticed that there was very little quality on offer in terms of swimwear. So, I decided to give life to a high-quality range, (that’s) super glamorous and sexy and which (will) last a lifetime.”

While all of the African Style Story garments are manufactured locally, Carla struggled to find the fabrics and skills necessary to translate this into luxury swimwear using her unique prints. Carla also wanted to make sure that she used a sustainable fabric for her luxury swimwear range. This was not an easy task, hence the collaboration with Miitik Beachwear, a Portuguese sustainable swimwear brand based in Lisbon. “I really wanted something very unique that you can’t find in SA!” The swimwear is expertly manufactured in Portugal using fabric that is made from recycled polyester and an elastane constructed from ECONYL® which is created from ocean waste such as old fishing nets and fabric scraps. The fabric is soft and has a wonderful stretch but is also incredibly durable.

The glamorous but oh so comfortable range of African Style Story x Miitik Beachwear swimwear is now available to shop on Equilibrio. Here’s a peek at some of these gorgeous pieces.



Carla Pinto, African Style Story
Carla Pinto, African Style Story Founder/Designer/Owner

E: What’s your most “memorable fashion moment” – something that has stuck with you and perhaps, continues to inspire you every day?

CARLA: I don’t know if you consider this a “memorable fashion moment”, but what really inspires me every day, and especially those days that you just want to give up, is any picture of a very happy client showing off her African Style Story outfit feeling gorgeous, confident and powerful!

E: What is the one key piece of advice you would give to a young designer embarking on creating their first fashion label?

CARLA: Don’t wait for the right moment to start (it’s never the right moment) just go for it! And then, stay humble and curious and never give up!

E: What’s your all-time favourite African Style Story piece?

CARLA: I have so many that I can’t choose just one! Almost every piece is versatile, sophisticated and comfortable which is exactly what I love when I’m choosing what to wear! So, I would say any of the maxi dresses, skirts, swimming costumes and of course the 100% cotton knitted long kimono!

E: Who’s YOUR favourite local designer (other than yourself of course)?


E: Like us, you’re passionate about building the local fashion industry and educating local consumers. What do you find to be the most challenging part of trying to achieve this?

CARLA: The challenge of changing mentalities! To make consumers understand that when they are paying R50 for a piece of clothing, it’s because something is really wrong! That they should buy less and take good care of their clothes and that they should choose quality products that last! And lastly, that when they buy local, they are supporting the local economy and the local community.


(RELATED POST: Asha:Eleven Inspired Sustainable Design )

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