Thando Ntuli is one of Design Indaba’s Emerging Creatives for 2022 and the fashion designer behind the MUNKUS brand. The young Soweto-raised designer has already been awarded the South African Fashion Week New Talent Search prize in 2022, which she won for her ready-to-wear collection Sisendleleni.
Design Indaba spoke to the rising fashion star about the story behind the MUNKUS name, how she gets her inspiration from the women of South Africa and where she hopes her career is heading.
1.Tell us about where your love of fashion began.
It began at home. I’ve always been interested in what my mom, grandmother, and great-grandmother have worn around me. They wore many hats in society to take care of their families and I saw what they put on to take on each day as something powerful. I started dressing for the way I wanted to feel each day, and eventually wanted to understand the psychology between clothing and feelings. My love of storytelling through clothing started there and then broadened to texture, colour, fabric and prints.
2.You started MUNKUS in 2021 after working for various industry names. Why did you decide to start your own brand, and what were the biggest challenges?
To be honest, I thought this is the time in my life, in my 20s, that I could bet on myself and art. Being able to climb the corporate ladder will always be a possibility at any age but being as carefree in my work and finances is an opportunity and not a risk now! I want to try all forms of my art with or without the possibility of failure. I want to put out work that people with the same values and beliefs understand. Most importantly, I want to have room to grow. I love this quote: “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realised I was somebody.” – Lily Tomlin
3.What’s the story behind the name MUNKUS?
MUNKUS is a contemporary, colourful, trans-seasonal brand. Munkus is the name that I am called by at home, so naturally it became a name I’ve attached to a sense of home. And this is an emotion that my brand conveys – relatable to any woman no matter who you are or where you are. Women should feel that same fuzziness when hearing the name and wearing the clothing.
This is an entirely local experience of youthful attire that tells a story with colours and prints. I am a millennial that is rooted in history and influenced by my predecessors. I aim to create new with what is and what was. The idea of the brand is to incorporate the history of South Africa. MUNKUS lies within the streets of Soweto and townships like Gugulethu. A brand that will continue to grow because its inspirations are rooted within intergenerational history.
4.Who (or what) are your creative inspirations, and why?
80s and 90s South African fashion provides heavy influence, and classic silhouettes that create a retro intergenerational style. I have taken inspiration from my forebearers, a generational genetic line of mothers in my life. The women who wear many hats from work to home that can be identified in their style; expressive yet sophisticated. MUNKUS lets you create layered looks by offering pieces that can be assembled in different ways or worn alone. MUNKUS garments are simple yet multi-purposeful go-to pieces for every occasion.
5.What are some of your career highlights to date?
MUNKUS won the All-Sourcing competition in October and will be showcasing in Paris in July 2023. I also won the SAFW New Talent competition 2022. But the best one is MUNKUS being a part of the Design Indaba Emerging Creatives class of 2022.
6.What’s up next for you and the brand?
- I will be showcasing at SAFW SS23.
- I want to focus on truly ethical design, and design with a circular ecology in mind. All up-and-coming pieces are to head in a direction I want my brand to be known for, which is timeless and sustainable.
- I am currently developing a home textile printing kit for local designers to create prints on sustainable fabrics. It focuses on using our resources and aims to cut costs which will make it accessible to all local small designers.