By Vanessa Ng

5 Minutes With… African Designer Sindiso Khumalo

The designer talks translating her rich heritage and culture into design, female empowerment and her new collaboration with & Other Stories

Sindiso Khumalo has forged her own path in the world of fashion, informed by her Zulu and Ndebele heritage and underscored by the values of sustainability, craft and community. We speak to the South African designer on her latest collaboration with Swedish fashion brand & Other Stories.

Your pieces are like stories brought to life in an incredibly vivid and  rich voice. How do you navigate translating all of that—in heritage, philosophy,  craft and sustainability into this collaboration, while maintaining a more commercial standpoint?

My hopes and wishes for this co-lab with & Other Stories are to shine a light on African design and the magical nature of Africa and my creations always highlight my African heritage and history with sustainability, craft and empowerment at the heart, and I was able to easily maintain my philosophies while working on a larger scale with & Other Stories.  As brands, we speak to the same woman and share the same values, so it was very natural working together with such a positive, creative and supportive team. Every decision was collaborative, no matter how big or small. And crucially for me, both our brands recognise the environmental and social pressures faced by our planet. We worked together to create a collection made from materials sourced in a more sustainable way including organic cotton, recycled cotton, and linen. 

Reach is what & Other Stories has brought to this conversation on sustainability. And I felt that because of our shared values, we have brought these concepts to a bigger audience, that fashion can be bold and playful, yet gentle, considered and about longevity and circularity. It’s all about being thoughtful, considerate, and creating clothing with intent. I want to make clothes that move beyond seasons and trends, which people feel they can hang onto for the rest of their lives.

Working across mediums like watercolours, textiles and collages has yielded distinct motifs and colours within the collection. Is there a story behind the designs?

The collection is full of colour and prints that express South Africa’s cultural and natural landscape. They link to my homeland, South African vistas—one features protea, a South African indigenous plant, and another, Nguni cattle, which are seen in the landscapes of Kwazulu Natal and the Eastern Cape. There’s also a pop of pepper-red colour, taken from the traditional Zulu Nkehli, which is adorned on a Zulu bride on her wedding day. And the cowrie shell, seen in print and the accessories which represents prosperity, wealth and good fortune in both African and Afro-Caribbean cultures.  I believe in colour therapy as it’s part of the continual conversation about how clothing is a form of self-care and self-expression. The colours that you wear can make you feel a certain way. They’ll make you show up differently and I love that!

Your brand works a lot around female empowerment. how do you champion these values?

My belief is if you empower a woman you can empower an entire family. It’s crucial for us as a company that the work we do filters down to communities less fortunate than ourselves. We bring female empowerment into our business model by working with local NGOs in Cape Town, and teach hand embroidery and hand appliqué. Some of the women are asylum seekers, some are former sex workers, and we work with NGOs that empower these women and give them a second chapter, and a second chance in turning their lives around through crafts.