Paying Homage to Historical Black Womxn


SA designer, Sindiso Khumalo, debuts her work at Milan Fashion Week


By Sumitra Naidoo

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 11 of VARSITY News.


South African designer and UCT architectural alumni, Sindiso Khumalo, debuted her Spring-Summer 2021 collection at Milan Fashion Week. The collection is based on American abolitionist, Harriet Tubman.









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Missing home…the lush fresh smell of home.

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Due to the ongoing global pandemic, many presentations this year took the form of a digital format. Khumalo’s label made use of a fashion film to showcase her collection. The film was shot in Philadelphia which is just outside of Cape Town. Models could be seen walking through canola fields and farmland, suggesting the landscape Tubman might have known. The collection is titled “Minty” after Tubman’s childhood nickname. Designs include tailored styles in hand-printed silk taffeta as well as handwoven cotton from Khumalo’s workshop in Burkina Faso.








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Our SS21 collection is based on our muse, Harriet Tubman and speaks to her childhood, named after her childhood name “Minty”. The collection features beautiful hand illustrations of the plants Harriet would have encountered as a child, namely the cotton plant, and the Philadelphia Fleabane. Beautifully illustrated by Cape Town artist Shakil Solanki. Some have asked me “Why Harriet and why now?” Essentially, I feel that we have to look at historical events and figures in order to understand our present. Violence against black women has been in existence since Harriet Tubman’s time and still exists today with Uyinene Mrwetyana in South Africa, Breonna Taylor in the United States and the Chibok school girls from Nigeria who were stolen by Boko Haram. These events are all linked, and the violence is still rife. What I try to do with my collections is to pay homage to women like Harriet Tubman and to all women who have been victims of gender based violence. Shot in Philadelphia, Cape Town, it tells the story of a young girl walking freely through the land. As women, we deserve to walk freely through any landscape, or place without fear. We deserve to go to a post office, to be in our home or go to school, without fear of rape, kidnapping and death. This video is reclaiming the land, that we should be walking freely in. Very grateful to @cameramoda for the opportunity to present at Milan Fashion Week on schedule, & for their continued support to us. Huge thank you to ALL the amazing creative minds behind this collection and film. And a special thanks to Liat, Darina and Naeema for your amazing craft, support & helping me build my brand. Thanks also to my amazing family for your support. Here is our digital presentation, for Milan Fashion Week SS21. Film Credits Director : @jonathan_kope Model : @nina.henry Hair and Make Up : @suaad_jeppie Styling : @githancoopoo Music Composer: @okzharp Creative Director: Sindiso Khumalo Special Thanks @shakilsolanki_studio @alexjrfox @ortoprintstudio @g_miglietta @nicloupis @andrealoupis @embracedig Alessandra DLM

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Khumalo told CNN Style that through her collections she wants to “educate people on Black culture and Black history, as well as bring light to the violence that black women experience”. Harriet Tubman escaped slavery and rescued many enslaved people through the Underground Railroad; part of Khumalo’s work tries to ensure that the stories of historical black women are told. Previous collections highlighted princess Sarah Forbes Bonetta’s life and her future collection will be inspired by South African activist Charlotte Maxeke.








Khumalo’s work has always been remarkable, meaning that she is no stranger to the spotlight. Earlier this year she was a joint finalist at the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers, which saw her sharing the prize money of €300,000 (R5.9million). Readers can follow this remarkable woman on Instagram (@sindisokhumalo) – a woman who is bound to continue pioneering her extraordinary work all over the world.


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