The pattern collector

Africa's faded modernist buildings are a source of graphic inspiration for fashion designer Sindiso Khumalo, who will speak at Design Indaba Conference 2015.

As she prepares to speak at Design Indaba Conference 2015, South African fashion designer Sindiso Khumalo is working on her next collection from her home in Hackney, London. This is her third collection and its launch will coincide with the Conference at the end of February.

“I’ve gone right back to basics,” says Khumalo, who moved to London initially to work as an architect in David Adjaye’s office after graduating from the University of Cape Town. “The collection uses a lot of hand-printed textiles and old techniques such as foiling and flocking.”

Architecture – and, in particular, the clean, angular style of the Bauhaus movement – has been an obvious source of inspiration since she made the move to fashion design. For this next collection, her graphics and prints take their reference from modernist buildings she spotted in cities such as Durban and Bulawayo.

“There’s a real charm about these beautiful old modernist buildings that haven’t been updated,” she says. She’s making an ongoing study of the repetitive forms of facades, screens and walls of concrete breeze blocks that she’s spotted on the streets.

Fans of her eponymous label’s vibrant graphic patterns and emphasis on construction will not be disappointed by her new collection, but it will be more monochrome punctuated with bursts of colour.

The handmade prints have “slight glitches that are quite nice” but overall the collection still has a geometric, clean finish. She is using a lot of foiling in the printed fabrics and white on white, black on grey. Her more monochrome look is something she attributes to becoming a mom recently.

It feels fresher, like a new chapter, she says.

Khumalo’s one-year-old son, Khaya, has made her think more deeply about what she leaves behind in the world. She is paying more attention than ever to the life cycle of her garments. She is using predominantly natural fibres in her collections. Also, all of her designs are printed and manufactured in Cape Town, reducing the footprint of each product. 

Khumalo is also moving away from designing for different seasons, which she believes creates waste. “A lot of the time people are wearing my clothes in both winter and summer,” she notes. She likens it to the way furniture designers work. “Fashion has become too fast. So much waste is produced. Someone gets squeezed if there’s that much waste – and it’s usually the small producer, independent boutique or up-and-coming designer.”

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