Thula Sindi

KM: Thula Sindi, what was the inspiration tonight?
TS: The name of this summer collection is A Return To Color – a befitting name to the collection since I worked with African print when I came onto the scene in 2006. I worked for Vlisco- a Dutch textile company that manufactures African print wear; and so I decided to go back to that because people have forgotten or do not know that was my forte. I felt the timing was right because I have learned alot from working with Vlisco. But in doing so, I wanted to approach this in a way that redefines this collection as a more contemporary collection that is very wearable with a broader appeal because I want to convert people who like to wear African print to wear it; and also get people who may never see themselves wearing this to try it. I have mixed and printed fabrics that include cotton, chiffon, and sequin with embossed satin. Normally when I make clothes, it is about taking those clichés about African fashion, and finding the truth and the beauty in them to make something beautiful and extraordinary out of them. For example, the notion that we Africans are always connected to the safari and wear animal skin is something I expand on by adding touches of the safari influence, and by using fabrics that look like animal skin but they are not.

KM: What was different between this collection and your previous work?
TS: I knew that question was coming! At my show's finale, you noticed the models were all wearing leather jackets. I am trying to draw away from the seasonal and the non seasonal because my collection is a continuation. I am interested in non-seasonality and clothes that land immediately. It is a conversation between my clients and I.

"…most fashion designers at the time were into big shows and glamorous clothes; and I was just not of that time- I did not fit that mould…"

KM: You have evolved immensely over the years. What has kept you going?
TS: Well, for me it was quite difficult because when I started, my aesthetic was not quite favored because I enjoy and still enjoy making clothes that are very feminine and wearable. When I design my collections, I think about how they should fit a woman and how they should look on her and so on. Most fashion designers at the time were into big shows and glamorous clothes; and I was just not of that time- I did not fit that mould. But slowly things have come around my way. Most designers are now doing more wearable collections and what has kept me going is that I see my clothes on the streets, I see people actually wearing my clothes.

KM: Do you have stores in South Africa?
TS: At the moment, my collections are stocked at certain boutiques. Making clothes and selling clothes are two different businesses. The retail business is completely different from designing. You cannot be a farmer and own and run a successful restaurant just because you have vegetables. With that said, I am focused on my job, which is designing and making clothes. I am stocked at many boutiques in South Africa; but when the time is right I will have a store.

I currently have home based studio and I do have a lot of customers and clients that come by as well. Good news is that I have a store that will be picking up my line in Montreal, Canada next month (December). Three weeks ago I was in Paris, France showcasing my collection; and there is a store that has shown interest in having Thula Sindi. But all in due time, I will have my own stores.

"…making clothes and selling clothes are two different businesses. You cannot be a farmer and own and run a successful restaurant just because you have vegetables…"

KM: If you were not in the fashion industry what would you be doing?
TS: After my studies, I worked for Vlisco and then went on to work for fashion designer Gavin Rajah. After a year, I branched out on my own to start my own line. Now I showcase my collections with someone who was my mentor at fashion shows such as Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa, Cape Town and many others. I am twenty-eight years old and have not done so much with my life yet; so fashion is all I know. I was just doing what seemed right for me at the time, but I decided to stay true to myself. Hopefully by staying true to myself, I will catch the next wave because it will change.

KM: Do you both get along? Is there competition between you two?
TS: Oh no! We are the really good friends. We do not share the same market and the thing is women will chose what they want; and in addition they tend to mix and match our items. So competing is actually a waste of time because the real choices are made on the sales floor. So if there was a disagreement, it is our problem. In addition, people would not really care.

KM: The turnout to the show was just exceptional. Is this what you expected? Did you ever think that one day you would be amongst the top three designers in South Africa?
TS: It is a blessing to be a citizen of South Africa. There are customers that I have had for the past five years and they are willing to grow old with me as their personal designer. In other countries, you create one bad collection and you are out of the game. I listen to the customers, I listen to the media, and I listen to good and bad reviews- they all help me grow. Because I have been honest about what I want to achieve as a fashion designer, I continue to stick to the plan. I think I am getting close to where I want to be.

KM: From here onwards what must we expect from Thula Sindi?
TS: In March 2013, I will be showcasing in Nigeria and hopefully Paris, France as well.

KM: We wish you the very best. Thank you for interviewing with AfroStyle Magazine
TS: Thank you very much. It was my pleasure.

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