Inspiratio­n and opportunit­y show up in unexpected ways. For one woman, designing a fashion collection as a tribute to her mother gave her renewed hope and drive. For another, the lockdown meant she finally had the time to start a side hustle.


These two women are making a name for themselves in fashion

Cindy Mfabe

STARTUP COSTS: ‘I started out by designing garments for other people. I was producing clothes from my parents’ dining room with machines they had bought for me.’

TURNOVER: ‘I now have my own studio and I have showcased my designs on platforms like African Fashion Internatio­nal Fashion Week and Lagos Fashion Week. I also work as a pattern technician for some great designers.’

Tired of bringing her clients’ ideas to life instead of her own, Cindy Mfabe was on the verge of quitting when she got an exciting job opportunit­y. In 2016 she took part in

The Intern by David Tlale, a reality TV show in which contestant­s vied to become the renowned fashion designer’s next intern. Someone else won the internship, but Cindy was offered a job as pattern technician.

Two years later she was turning heads at SA Fashion Week with her own designs. How did your journey in fashion begin?

I come from a family of artists. My mother and grandmothe­r were both visual artists, and my siblings are all very talented. I only realised later that I’m artistic too – I started sketching one day and, although my first sketches were horrible, I just kept on doodling. When I got to Grade 8, I decided to go to LISOF [now STADIO Faculty of Arts and Design] to study fashion design.

After I graduated in 2012, I started making garments for clients who told me what they wanted. I guess I was just trying to learn and make money. Being in the fashion industry is really tough; I was ready to quit. And then David Tlale offered me a job. I became his head pattern technician and, after working for him for a couple of years, I decided to register my own brand. What motivated you to take such a leap of faith and set out on your own?

My mom passed away that year. I figured the best way to honour her memory was to create a collection as a tribute to her: how she made me feel, the memories we had together, and all her style choices and the colours she loved. I tried to capture her spirit in my first collection.

I chose my mom’s favourite colour for me: lime green. She had a specific colour for each one of her children – mine just happened to be lime green. It was the colour of my lunch box, my T-shirts, my facecloths and my towels. It was all lime green! As a child I hated the colour, but after she passed away it became my favourite. You were the talk of SA Fashion Week in 2018. How did that impact your career?

It all blew up when I became the 2018 New Talent Search Winner at SA Fashion Week. I did a collection inspired by South African artist Lionel Smit. I saw his piece Disappear and I just started sketching. The painting features such strong young women, but with a touch of naivety, which is part of my brand as well. I tried to encapsulat­e that same vibrancy, making use of his bold colours, like cobalt blue.

One of my biggest milestones will always be entering and showing at SA Fashion Week, but my later coverage in Vogue Italia is definitely one of my career highlights! How would you describe your own style compared to your brand’s?

My personal style is very laid-back. I couldn’t care less; I just pick whatever’s comfortabl­e! For my brand, however, I create garments for a woman who knows what she wants. She’s a profession­al but loves to have a bit of fun. I design for the type of woman who wants to have that one piece in her wardrobe that she just loves. My clothes are ready-to-wear, contempora­ry, and for day-today fun. What inspires you?

I gravitate towards anything that feels like home. I was struggling to find myself, but it was my brother who told me to look inside – where I can relate, where it’s comfortabl­e. We’re always encouraged to push our limits and do the most different thing possible, but I can’t sustain that. I draw inspiratio­n from home, and that’s what’s been working for me. Do you have any words of wisdom for fellow hustling creatives?

I wish someone had told me to keep on dreaming. When you start your career in the fashion business, your zeal and excitement to go bigger or do something different get stolen because you go through so much. Just remember to keep dreaming, work on those dreams and just go for them.

‘ I create garments for a woman who knows what she wants. She’s a profession­al but loves to have a bit of fun.’

Find Cindy Mfabe’s designs at The Fashion Agent in Rosebank, Johannesbu­rg, and at Merchants on Long in Cape Town. Alternativ­ely, send Cindy a message on Instagram: @cindy_mfabe

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 ??  ?? Cindy Mfabe got her own label off the ground after gaining valuable experience in the fashion industry.
Cindy Mfabe got her own label off the ground after gaining valuable experience in the fashion industry.

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