Nandipha Pantsi
2 minute read
24 Jun 2014
6:00 am

Asanda Madyibi: Designing happiness

Nandipha Pantsi

Asanda Madyibi isn't what you'd expect from a celebrity designer.

Asanda Madyibi looks through some of her proposals for the 2014 Durban July. Picture: Alaister Russell

“For me, it has always just been about creative exploration. I’ve always enjoyed making garments and when I saw how happy my dresses made other people, I just carried on making dresses,” she says.

Creating garments is a skill she unwittingly learned from her mother and grandmother as a child, she says. By the time she was in high school, Madyibi was already making her own clothes.

“Some people learned how to cook, I learned how to sew. I never really considered it as a career. I was certain that I would go into graphic design or architecture,” she says.

She remembers the day she told her aunt she was more interested in fashion.

“She looked at me and said: ‘But you are so clever! Why would you want to do fashion?'”

Minnie Dlamini wears a dress by Asanda Madyibi at the Metro FM Awards. Picture: Gallo Images

Minnie Dlamini wears a dress by Asanda Madyibi at the Metro FM Awards. Picture: Gallo Images

During the years she spent working for fashion houses such as Sun Goddess, Madyibi could never answer that question. Then, in 2007, she decided to start her own fashion business. But creative liberation also comes with its share of challenges.

“I love making people happy. But sometimes my creative vision doesn’t work too well with the vision of my client. When I feel like it’s not working, I advise them to go to another designer.”

Madyibi isn’t naive about the fierce competition in her industry; she embraces it.

“The fashion industry can never be too crowded. Every designer offers something different and unique,” she says.

Speaking on her design aesthetic, Madyibi says: “I’m an African in Africa and I’ll always strive for an African aesthetic. But I also believe that ‘African’ can be interpreted in different ways. Clothes are about culture and lifestyle. As a designer you shouldn’t forget who you are.”

Her approach is reflected in her attitude to celebrity too. “Having my clothes out there is enough for me. I don’t feel the need to attend events with my clients,” she says.