Sindiso Khumalo is a London-based fashion designer, former architect and self-professed textile nerd. Her upbringing as a Durban Zulu girl seems to have imprinted on her creative conscience as she smoothly translates traditional Ndebele patterns into her contemporary fashion collections. In her exploration of these patterns, Khumalo has developed her own graphic language and it has become the standout feature of her clothing line. Here, she unpacks the influence her cultural heritage has had over her work:
For me, the work that I produce is a love letter between myself and my ancestry, and looking at the inheritance that they’ve given me. It’s a past, future and present conversation that I’m constantly having.
Khumalo’s sustainable textiles play an important role in honouring and simultaneously uncovering the artistry of African prints through a modern design medium. By observing the colourful patterning found in Zulu beadwork, Khumalo is able to create a single motif, and then experiment with its scale, colour and composition in various materials in order to come up with a range of different fabrics and designs. Aside from its fashion merit, the clothing is also appreciated as art by various institutions such as the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington.
In addition to drawing from her own cultural background, Khumalo is big on collaborating with skilled craftsman living in rural KwaZulu-Natal. She stresses the importance of such collaborations in bringing “the value of the hand back into a contemporary setting”.