Earlier this year, Cape Town-based fashion designer Sindiso Khumalo received the prestigious LVMH prize, which was for 2020 shared out between the eight finalists, as a measure of Covid-19 era support for emerging talent. But that's just one of the growing number of accolades Khumalo can add to her mantlepiece. In a fraught year, she's fought through to be now bestowed with a second prestigious distinction, in the form of the Green Carpet Fashion Awards' Independent Designer title.
On October 10, a re-invented for the lockdown-era GCFA ceremony took place virtually, with a film created to celebrate the themes of 'togetherness' and 'rebirth', as well as a digitally enhanced red carpet moment, with celebrities gracing the virtual runway in their finery. To celebrate the moment, and the occasion of her award, we caught up with winner Khumalo to discuss her brand, the future and all things sustainability.
What does sustainability mean to you in 2020?
My interests in sustainability lie mainly in socio-economic impact of our businesses, and poverty alleviation. It is often the poorest communities in the world that are also the most polluted. Whether it's groundwater contamination, living in proximity to busy roads and highways, and sewage issues.
So I believe that by addressing issues of poverty, you are invariably also addressing environmental issues. I feel the social and environmental sides of the sustainability conversation are inextricably linked, and as designers we need to try and address both where we can.
How has your concept of sustainability evolved over time?
In many ways, I have always been interested in sustainability, but it was only when I had children six years ago that I actually began to ask the right questions.
Questions like: 'Where does my waste go?'; 'What is the impact of this fabric?'; 'Who made my clothes?'. I think considering what we intend to leave to the next generation is very much at the core of what we try to do as a business. Looking at both the social and environmental impact of the clothes we make.
Your most recent collection is based on Harriet Tubman, how do you feel sustainable clothes can be political?
I think taking a stand on anything is a political statement. One cannot help but be political in a time when the President of the free world won’t denounce white supremacists in a presidential debate. We have to be political, because there is so much to fight for, and especially with sustainability, our planet depends it.
Why do we need to support more independent brands in the fashion landscape?
With independent brands come new ways of thinking, and usually new methods of shaking up the industry. I think supporting independent brands is also about supporting new and diverse voices in the fashion industry. And this is so important. I don’t go shopping for clothes anymore, but when I do, it's either vintage or a great independent brand that speaks to me. You vote with your dollars.
What does it mean to you to win this GCFA award?
It means so much! Of course I am gutted I won’t be able to receive it in person. The GCFA is such a beautiful ceremony in the most magical setting in Milan. But I am hugely grateful to be recognised in this way. But with all recognition, comes responsibility, and I just want to grow and grow the work we do in getting women out of abject poverty into fair, ethical work.
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