Sindiso Khumalo, a designer that the world is talking about, hails from the heart of Kwa Zulu-Natal. Dressmaking seems to run like a thread in the Khumalo family – her maternal grandmother was a pattern maker and machinist, which inspired Sindiso.
Since becoming a finalist for the prestigious LVMH Prize, her relentless pursuit to create sustainable clothes that will stand the test of time has made her a force to be reckoned with.
The Cape Town-based designer, who graduated from Central St. Martins in the UK with a Masters Degree in Design for Textiles Futures, Sindiso’s eponymous label was launched in 2014 with a core focus on sustainability and empowerment.
Her most emphatic rise, which opened so many doors, was Vogue Italia’s Dubai’s Who’s On Next competition, which she won along with South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo of Maxhosa Africa.
“Being selected and winning was a real honour, and winning alongside my fellow South African designer really did set my career up for greater things,” says the enigmatic entrepreneur.
LVMH prize: the holy grail
For any designer who dreams of solidifying their name in international fashion The LVMH Prize is the holy grail competition. After all, who wouldn’t want to be mentored by designers such as Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière among other fashion greats? Our very own Thebe Magugu won the LVMH Prize in 2019, making him the first African to win.
With the illustrious competition receiving thousands of applications, Sindiso was one of the 20 semi-finalist. “Thebe Magugu really motivated me to join so I just went for it,” explains Sindiso, adding, “They have an intense judging process. They sent the semi-finalists to Paris – an intense yet amazing experience where we met influential people the likes of Edward Enninful , Gigi Hadid and Anna Wintour. They selected eight finalists but then Covid-19 hit so the prize was shared among us. It was great to be part of the experience and LVMH has been really generous with their time and support with all of our brands.”
The latest collection: freedom and femininity
Inspired by powerful women like her mother who fought tirelessly against the Apartheid regime, Sindiso’s clothes convey a juxtaposition of strength, dignity and femininity. It certainly comes through strongly in her latest collection, North Star, which sees her looking again to her muse, Harriet Tubman.
“This collection covers the progression of Harriet’s narrative and the notion of the North Star and its symbolism in the idea of freedom,” says Sindiso. This explains the folklore aspect of the clothes with its huge Peter Pan collars and 19th-century silhouettes that were brought into the future with a feminine wisp of romanticism. With all that’s going on in the world regarding race relations, it’s a relevant time for a designer to reflect on the theme.
“Speaking to the Black Live Matter movement, this collection tells the story of a black life that lived through the most oppressive inhuman regimes and still triumphed. It’s a message of hope in the struggle. A message we all need now,” says Sindiso.
A balancing act
Being a designer and an entrepreneur is a huge feat. However, add being a parent into the mix and it’s even more difficult. Sindiso juggles her demanding business, her collaborations and her two children.
She says, “It’s definitely very challenging most of the time. But life is about creating a balance and ensuring that you’re making time to be with your children and enjoying that time and ensuring that when you’re at work you’re also present in that space.”
Lockdown and the next chapter
Covid-19 hit the fashion industry hard. “My husband and I were trying to work out how to homeschool, look after our kids and run our individual businesses,” she says, “it definitely became like, ‘Wow, how are we going to do this?’”
Excitingly, Sindiso is about to launch with Net-a-Porter. “This is a huge highlight and an opportunity,” says the designer. Plus, her accomplishments will surely pave the way for the new vanguard of fashion designers from the African continent.
Words | Sibusiso Sbu Mkize @sbuthestylegeek
Photography | Migal van As @migalvanas