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Our Editor-In-Chief chats to Thando Ntuli, founder of MUNKUS, about her showcase at SA fashion week

It’s been a week since the SA Fashion Week (SAFW) Spring and Summer ‘2023 edition and I’m still obsessing about a lot of the runway looks. Taking place at the Mall of Africa over 3 days, it was a whirlwind of fashion, socialising and late nights.

The first day kicked-off with a Mr Price New Talent Search Show, an important competition that supports and opens doors for young designers. Featuring 8 talented finalists , Cyla Consolves was announced as this year’s winner and she will release a collection with Mr Price in the coming months.

For the first night I wore a custom made outfit by MUNKUS by Thando Ntuli, the 2022 winner of the Mr Price New Talent Search Show. I am obsessed with MUNKUS layering,and flattering and feminine designs.

For SA Fashion Week, MUNKUS presented their SS23 collection titled “Isikhathi” , a beautiful showcase of feminine shapes, artsy graphics, detailing, and what Thando does best, layering of different shapes and cuts.

In this GLAMOUR exclusive , she talks about her journey to her first runway show and how her love for fashion began.

Hello Thando, please tell us a little about yourself?

I am a young fashion designer who loves to tell stories through my creations. I've been fortunate to gain experience in the industry, and I'm constantly striving to improve my skills and push the boundaries of what's possible in fashion design. My goal is to create art that resonates with people and makes them feel at home, no matter where they are in the world. I draw inspiration from the vibrant colours and eclectic styles around me, and my work is a reflection of my love for clothing and storytelling. I hope that my designs inspire others as much as they inspire me.

What is your first fashion memory?

My first fashion memory is being fascinated by my family members' unique sense of style. I loved trying on their clothes and making them my own. I was always drawn to pieces that were different from my usual style, unfortunately I gained a reputation as a closet thief, but this fascination later evolved into my passion for art and fashion.

What inspired the name “MUNKUS”?

The name "MUNKUS" is a nickname given by my family, and it became a part of my identity. The name evokes a sense of warmth and familiarity, which is what I want my brand to represent. Fashion, to me, is more than just beautiful garments; it's about telling a story and connecting with people on a deeper level. My hope is to bring a sense of comfort and individuality to my customers.

Photography: Eunice Driver Photography

Tell us a little about your journey after winning the 2022 Mr Price New Talent Search competition? Did the competition help launch your fashion label? If yes, in what way?

Winning the competition was a significant milestone in my career. Since then, I have achieved various accolades, including being recognized as the "All Sourcing Designer of the Year" in 2021 and being selected to showcase in Paris in July 2023. I have also had the opportunity to showcase my designs at prestigious fashion weeks in South Africa and Lagos and have been featured in renowned media publications.

Furthermore, I received the "Emerging Creative of the Year" 2022 award from both Design Indaba and was recognized as the "SA Fashion Week New Talent" in the same year. And also launched my brand, MUNKUS, as an emerging label in South Africa.

How did you end up as a fashion designer?

I discovered more about my love for clothing and art while studying at FEDISA in Cape Town. There, I had the opportunity to showcase my brand during its launch into the industry and even received the prestigious Most Fashionable Commercial Range award by Truworths of the 2019 Graduate Class.

During my studies, I interned at a sock manufacturer and gained valuable insights into the retail side of owning a South African fashion brand. This experience gave me a clear understanding of production, consistency, and customer value. After graduating I was offered a job as a Junior Buyer in Kidswear, I tried to stay in print and colour. However, I ultimately decided to follow my gut by starting my own brand, focusing on my art in a sense. Today, I create collections that reflect the vibrant culture of South Africa and evoke a sense of home and understanding no matter where you are.

Photography: Eunice Driver Photography

How would you describe your brand aesthetics?

MUNKUS draws inspiration from a generational line of women in my life who wore many hats to give me the life I have today. Their influence is reflected in my collections, which aim to create a space for women to express themselves and be their best versions while embarking on their life journeys.

My aesthetic blends 80s and 90s South African fashion with classic silhouettes, resulting in a retro intergenerational style that is expressive yet sophisticated. MUNKUS offers simple yet multi-purposeful garments that can be layered or worn alone for any occasion.

What do women and their bodies represent to you?

The MUNKUS woman is a bold and expressive individual who bridges the generation gap between younger and older women. My bespoke pieces are designed to be handed down and dressed differently to suit each age group. The collection celebrates the "ME" in every woman's journey, allowing them to find an extension of their personality or the persona they want to have for the day. With its rich colours and bold prints, MUNKUS offers a collection that exudes confidence and helps women face the world with the right attitude.

Tell us a little about your SA Fashion Week SS’23 showcase?

My SS23 collection, "Isikhathi," which translates to "Time," explores the concept of nostalgia and how it can serve as an escape and a means to find solace in our memories and imagination.

I drew inspiration from my childhood, with its freedom and creativity, as a time when one has little to no responsibilities, enabling one to move away from the pressures of the present and the mystery of the future. By delving into that period of my life, I was able to break free from the pressures of the present and future and seek refuge in my past - something stable that I could use to identify my true self, in contrast to who I am now.

Photography: Eunice Driver Photography

The collection is playful and colourful, with patterns and designs that evoke different emotions and memories from my own childhood. I hope it serves as a reminder that it's okay to look back, feel nostalgic, and utilise it as a source of inspiration for the present and future.

As a fashion designer, how would you define your role in society?

I believe my role in society is not only to create beautiful and innovative clothing but also to address pressing issues in the fashion industry, such as sustainability and accessibility.

I aim to provide resources for emerging designers to help with our textile industry problem, investing in the creative and developmental process to encourage more amazing work to come from "Home." Ultimately, my goal is to shift the fashion industry towards a more responsible and inclusive future.

What advice do you give young designers such as yourself who are also starting out in the fashion business?

My advice would be to trust in the process and believe in your capabilities. Consistency and staying true to your artistic vision are key factors that will help you succeed in the long run.

Where do you look for creative inspiration?

I find creative inspiration through my personal experiences and understanding as a young Black woman. Storytelling is a crucial part of my creative process, and my biggest influences come from the generations of women in my life who have inspired me. At MUNKUS, I aim to empower women to express themselves through their clothing, and I incorporate the concept of "home" into my designs to give women a sense of comfort and confidence.

How do influences from outside of South Africa find their way into your work? Influences from outside of South Africa have inspired me to promote sustainable growth in the industry and to collaborate with other designers and retailers to build a stronger presence nationwide. I believe that larger companies and the government have a crucial role to play in supporting and providing resources for emerging designers.

We need to invest in building a strong textile industry in South Africa and excelling in practices that have been passed down for years, such as beading, leather and dyes.

What do you aspire to be?

My aspiration is to be a successful Black woman who has made a positive impact on the creative industry. I hope to continue to grow and expand my brand, while also creating opportunities for emerging designers and fostering growth in the industry.

Words you live by?

A quote from my uncle Tim has been a guiding principle for me: "Decide on the life you want now, be clear and every decision you make from here on will be based on 'does it bring me closer to the life or goal I want'".

Where to purchase MUNKUS?

MUNKUS is currently available on our website and soon at Merchants on Long. Follow MUNKUS on Instagram @munkus_.

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