Born and raised in KwaZulu-Natal, fashion designer Sindiso Khumalo’s interest in clothing was awakened at age 10 when her mother gave her a kiddie’s sewing machine.
Little did her mom know it would lead to her daughter creating an international brand, Sindiso Khumalo.
Khumalo, an architecture graduate, moved to London to work for industry guru David Adjaye and this awakened her love for textiles and design.
Her works have been on catwalks at, among others, Milan Fashion Week and Smithsonian Museum of African Art. More recently, she showcased at the Vodacom Durban July alongside Laduma Ngxokolo and Rina Chunga.
She chats to The Citizen about her current fashion evolution and achievements in the industry.
Tell us about your fashion journey?
I was more interested in fashion than architecture. I found that working in architecture helped me understand materials and how different prints would work in clothing design. After my three-year stint at David Adjaye’s, I did a Masters of Arts degree in textiles before returning and working for Woolworths.
I then moved back to London as a freelance stylist on different accounts, including Harrods and John Lewis, as well as with quite hard-core retail environments. I realised that I actually wanted to be making the clothes so, five years ago, I started my own brand.
Are your clean lines and fuss-free clothing indicative of your approach to life?
Absolutely! I’m a minimalist and believe it’s also good for the environment. I can’t remember the last time I went shopping for clothes. I like to reuse and recycle clothing.
What inspires the direction you take with each collection?
Each is a very personal experience. We live in a world with so many faceless brands: you don’t know who made your clothes and what inspired it.
One of the skirts in my latest collection is inspired by a bedspread from my childhood. My summer 2019 collection was also deeply influenced by Alice Walker’s book, The Color Purple, and what it meant to be a black woman at the turn of the 20th century.
What era inspires you?
I would say the 1970s and then also the 1920s. My mum also kept the most amazing clothes from the 1970s for me. So I tap into this era and reference my mum’s great pictures of big afros and platform shoes and such like.
The architecture from the 1920s and the 20th century Bauhaus movement are very interesting from a design perspective.
Tell us about your United Nations presentation on sustainable fashion?
That was pretty awesome. I was talking about one of my favourite passions, which is sustainability in fashion.
It was a very powerful experience to be able to talk about what we do here in Africa in terms of making ethical clothing and to shine a spotlight on sustainable South African fashion.
How could your current achievements, such as featuring in Vogue, inspire young African designers?
I think there’s a lot of hype when you are a designer. I’m grateful for all the amazing opportunities I’ve had. To be featured in Vogue, go to Milan, go to Dubai with Vogue Italia.
But the most important thing is to create a sustainable, viable business so you can create real change in the world and make your voice heard for whatever your passions are.
I think you can create real change through a business with a proper business model. So, I would advise young people, but when looking at designers, to ask themselves do they have a sustainable business? What can I learn from them and their business model? What’s missing in the market?
Ask those sorts of questions because publicity comes and goes, but the business is what keeps your craft alive.