Must pack items for France

We chatted to Sabelo Mthethwa about her move to France, how she chose which clothing items to take, and her tips for anyone wanting to travel to France.

Check out her Instagram @wabi_sabi_fr to keep up to date with Sabi and her fashion in France!

1. Where in France are you?

I’m in Paris!

2. Why France?

I choose France for many reasons. Ultimately it was the culture and opportunities it offered for a young black woman such as myself. As a person who has worked in Media and fashion, I wanted to explore other countries that had successfully created a market that was holistically their own but had a global footprint. France has a unique combination of deep-rooted cultural practices and modern executions. Many causes in social, economic, and environmental aspects are fiercely taken on by the people and they are unrelenting in finding viable solutions. Learning from their way of business has been life-changing so far.

3. When did you move?

March 2020.

4. First impressions about the city?

Dirty, Awe-inspiring, and every inch the romantic scenery you imagine (with a hint of downtown Jozi). Paris is a fantastic city for a “Joburger” as it shares many similarities. Safer in many ways, it echoes the diversity and feel of international culture, lifestyle, and fashion that is offered in Johannesburg. Although the pandemic has dimed the bright city, the beauty of the structures, historical sights, and fashion has exploded with the decline of “tourists” in the city. I feel I am really experiencing France in its true form. Viva La Republique!

5. What did you do with your old clothes when you moved?

Mostly gave them away, some were turned into cleaning cloths (yes we all have that political t-shirt we clean our windows with). My mother has instilled in us a culture of decluttering, so every year during the festive season we (as a family) clear out our closets and give away an assortment of clothes to people who are in need. My family pastors a church in Freedom Park (Soweto) and many of the individuals have family members that require assistance. This and many other programs such as collecting and giving away school shoes are initiatives that my mother has launched in the church. The clothes donated often go towards the people in need. 

6. Any reflections on how much clothing you owned?

A lot more than needed! When you move to a different country for a long-term stay, you realize how much “stuff” you’ve accumulated. Things that you don’t wear often or don’t plan on wearing but don’t have the heart to get rid of. That all ends when you only have 40kgs of luggage space and 1 carry-on bag. I think the modern term is called minimalism… I just call it moving.

7. What method did you use to eliminate what you took and what you didn’t?

The most important aspect of my packing was versatility. I packed items that could be worn on many different occasions and for different seasons. Summer clothes were minimal and I mostly focused on packing for winter as it accounts for 75% of the year in the north. Everything else I gave away. I left with my whole life in one (40kg) suitcase.  

8. What should one pack when going to France now that you have been there and done that?

COMFORTABLE SHOES! Forget the stilettos or fancy heels. Focus on a nice pair of reliable sneakers that are lightweight. You will be walking everywhere.

9. What should one leave out?

The less luggage one carries the better. Traveling in Europe requires fast and easy movement and with a heavy bag that becomes very difficult. In the words of Erika Badu; “Bag Lady, you gon’ hurt your back. Draggin’ all ’em bags like that”. 

10. Any travel tips one should bear in mind about the city?

  1. Have a plan for what you want to experience or see. It’s easy to get caught up in the city and the energy of the people so be sure to tick all your bucket lists. 
  2. In contrast, be open to experiencing something out of your plan. Every inch of Paris has a sense of history. 
  3. Don’t worry if you don’t speak french. Yes, the French are known for being difficult people however a South African smile disarms them completely and you will find yourself being helped by strangers everywhere.