SINDISO KHUMALO is the self-titled womenswear brand of a South African-born, London-based textile and fashion designer. We’re huge fans of the prints, fabrics and clothes she creates, especially her very recently launched Autumn Winter 13/14 collection. SINDISO KHUMALO the brand encompasses bold, graphic prints with a sophisticated, minimalist construction. Sindiso Khumalo the young designer grew up in SA and first studied Architecture at UCT before becoming a one-to-watch in the fashion industry.
It was architecture which first took Sindiso to London where she worked with award-winning architect David Adjaye before studying a MA Design for Textile Futures at Central St Martins College of Art and Design. She graduated with a distinction for her final project, was chosen as a finalist for the 2012 ELLE South Africa Rising Star Award, and has had one of her dresses nominated as the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa at this year’s Design Indaba.
To conclude our 2013 Young South Africa series, we caught up with Sindiso following the release of her new collection at Labo Ethnik Fashion Weekend in Paris.
What kind of woman do you design for?
I really want my brand to be more about a sensibility and an attitude. The woman I design for has an attitude about clothing and about how she puts things together in her life. She could be really young, or very mature, but still shares a similar sensibility with the brand.
Where do you find inspiration for prints?
Everywhere, especially the streets. Be it the streets of Durban, Joburg or London. I love walking the streets and just looking and sketching.
You work with NGOs around the world in developing new textiles for your collections. Can you let us know a bit about this process?
Over the last year I have felt the need to develop a mandate for how I work. My goal for my label is not just a fashion brand but also for it to be an empowering agent, especially in the formerly marginalized parts of Africa. What that means for the brand is that we aim to develop more sustainable practices and create value in my supply chain. So I started looking for NGOs to collaborate with, it wasn’t easy in the beginning as people didn’t really get what I wanted. But finally I met a great team from an NGO in Durban and began developing new textiles for my Autumn Winter collection with them. We’ve made a series of textiles by collaborating with an amazing craftswoman, Bertina Khumalo based in Northern KZN. It was such a great experience for us as a company as it also meant her craftwork has moved into a new luxury fashion market.
What did you learn while studying architecture that lends itself to fashion design?
There is a lot of cross-pollination between the architecture and fashion disciplines. Both are based on structure, space and shape and they are also basic necessities to human life – clothing and shelter. So the transition was very natural. In this collection, my approach was a very architectural one. Like an architect, I’m always challenging the materials I am confronted with and always debating the relationship between the body and the garment, using the body as my context, my site.
Some major names in fashion are fellow former students of Central St Martins, do you feel the pressure while studying there?
St Martins was an amazing education and I am hugely grateful to my mother for sponsoring my education there. It was a rigorous course, and very demanding. But it created a huge paradigm shift for me and my career, and really challenged my approach in many ways.
How often do you get to return home to Durban?
About 3-4 times a year.
Does growing up in South Africa provide any advantages when taking on the international fashion industry?
I think if you take your influences with you and carry them into your work, no matter where you’re from, you’ll produce something special. I try to put my life into my work, my dreams, my ramblings, my conversations with friends and family. That’s what makes it very personal and unique. As it’s my own story.
Who would be your ultimate person to dress?
Michelle Obama and Winnie Mandela.
What are you working on next?
My AW13/14 sales drive and launching our online store.
What comes to mind when you hear “Young South Africa”?
Read more of our 2013 Young South Africa series here.