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How to find your voice

Fashion designer Sindiso Khumalo shares her thoughts on the originality of personal experience, and why creativity is about being honest with – and about – yourself.

November 2018

‘I wear my life on my sleeve. What you see is what you get, both in terms of my work and in terms of me as a person. Somebody once came up to me during a show and said, “I’ve found your Instagram, but I’m looking for the label’s Instagram.” I was like, “Same thing.” The label is me, and I am the label. I’m not trying to portray an idea of a seamless, designer lifestyle, where I’m always jetting off to this place or the other. No, I’m a mother of two – so whether I’m at a fashion event or spending time with my son, I’ll put both on my social platforms.’

Sustainability, craft and empowerment are at the heart of designer Sindiso Khumalo's work.
 
 

 

'Look into yourself. What are the things in your life that you find really special?'

Getting real

‘I try to be authentic about my experience. There’s an illusion – especially in my industry – of life being all about fashion shows. I like to break that idea, and be an authentic voice for what my experience as a woman working in the industry is like. The fashion industry is becoming more inclusive, and especially in London you’re seeing more and more models who don’t look like “typical” models. There’s an authentic voice that’s coming in now, and I fully embrace that.’

Looking within

‘No matter who you are, if you talk about your personal experience, it will set you apart from everybody else because nobody else is having your experience. Young designers will often ask me what they should look into when they’re searching for inspiration. I tell them: “Look into yourself. What are the things in your life that you find really special?”‘

Embracing heritage

‘Between spending time in South Africa and in the UK, I’m constantly having different creative influences coming into my headspace. I grew up in Durban, so I draw on a combination of my Zulu and Ndebele heritage, as well as my experiences living in the most tropical part of South Africa. Last season I spent a lot of time in Inanda in Durban, so I put that plant life into my current collection.

I find it special that my grandmother made clothes for her children, and those clothes got passed on to my mom, and then on to me. That gives me a beautiful sense of heritage and history. When I got married I had a Zulu wedding, and I tried to express that in my first collection. Each of my collections is an honest reflection of a personal exploration.’