Siyethemba Duma on Aesthetics, African Fashion & Matte Nolim
Siyethemba Duma head designer at Matte Nolim; a South African ready to wear brand took the time to chat with LPNY about his career in fashion, aesthetics and his thoughts on African fashion and where the industry is headed.
LPNY: Where are you from? (As specific as possible), do you still live there now? MN: I am Originally from Kwa-Zulu-Natal , know as the Land of Shaka Zulu. But I moved up to Johannesburg a year and half ago in search of Gold! The Brand was Created in 2013 shortly after my internship and graduating ,the hardest and. Best decisions I made.
LPNY: is the objective of Matte Nolim? What is the Matte Nolim aesthetic? MN: We are obsessed with the concept of how minimalism can add so much to how a person looks. There's a certain level of curiosity that you have when dressed in the concept " less is more " but in the fashionable time we live in it needs an edge or u look shy. We are now looking at Minimalism in African Aesthetics.
LPNY: How did you get involved in the fashion industry? What event/ person truly opened doors for you and gave you opportunities? MN: Growing up in South Africa, I’ve always had a great level of curiosity about designers, all I saw was dresses in magazines and no faces that we're making these beautiful dresses. Point is , I wanted to be those geniuses with a God Like talent to create . So many structures and people have been helpful and inspiring. For example, KZN Fashion Council got me my first show at Fashion Week all expenses paid for, SA Fashion Week. And currently Mercedes Benz Fashion Week helped put my latest work out there, this list doesn't end!
LPNY: Do you have mentors today or other designers you admire? How do they help you? MN: I've got a lot of secret Mentors lol who do amazing things that inspire me. I seek to learn as much as I can to be a better professional and improve design knowledge. So There's not one specific person Yet!
LPNY: How do you balance work life/ personal life? MN: lol Eish !! I'm a bad one at this. Work is my life and the people I meet I meet through work. I am obsessed with what I do, I love it. It's my personal life.
LPNY: How do you plan on making Matte Nolim a long lasting brand? As opposed to some of the short lived fashion brands we see emerging today. MN: Great Question, Here is something most people expect from " African Designers " especially of Origin they expect print; African print to be Specific . And I live in South Africa the Rainbow Nation with 11 official Languages. Out of Ten People I walk passed everyday no one is wearing print and this is Africa. People expect designers to make fun colorful clothes tribal printed garments but they themselves wear Minimalistic concept clothes unconsciously 6 times a week if not the whole year. For me that observation alone is the start of my business.
LPNY: As an African, what are some challenges you’ve faced in your career?MN: Support, the brand hasn't been around for long so we need as much support as possible from media, friends and investors. We are building relationships at this stage and I always get this impression that they thought Matte Nolim was a White Boy from Cape Town, I'm still not sure if that's a good or a bad thing J! But it would really be amazing that African designers be looked at for their work and not anything else.
LPNY: In your opinion, how do you think the view of what is considered African fashion has changed from being only “tribal”?MN: People are being introduced to a concept I call " Modern African Minimalism " which isn't Africa by looking at Naked Africans with animal skin, but what the modern African makes Fashionable. Europe has fashion eras with different styles the further back you go the more it looks costume. Africa is redefining its self at this stage and it's exciting because we are asking questions in design.
LPNY: How do you feel when someone assumes African fashion is all tribal regardless of where in Africa it is from?MN: Education Hay! They need to be exposed to simple minimal things like the shades of African Soils in every Country in Africa and exposed to clean African aesthetics. Because clearly to them Africa can't be clean and yet no One knows how to clean like an African.
LPNY: Your latest collection Mirror|rorriM, what was the main inspiration behind it?MN: Mirror | rorriM was really about representing the clothes on the look book in a way that the Ramp didn't and I really want women to see themselves in the clothes like looking in the mirror. We also played with the mirror effect in editing thanks to the Amazing Photographer Aart Verrips.
LPNY: Do you think that in the fashion industry, designers but especially African designers are given the credit they deserve? Why or why not. MN: Mmm your questions are not what I expected, you are going in deep. Hitting home. That's a very serious matter. I really feel they shy attention away from African designers on purpose to control the industry there are so many Great African designers we only see or hear of once and then flooded with the mediocre sister brands until we forget the Amazing black designers. I talk about great African Designers work I've seen once and never again on big platforms and nothing ever again but it went viral. Black designers are not just for black people We need more designers to articulate this
LPNY: Future collections, what can our readers expect to see? Where are you currently drawing inspiration from? Clean African Aesthetics in ready to wear
LPNY: Will you continue to create in the idea that simplicity is more?Yes. But the challenge is to make it fun. And relatable. Because ultimately people must buy and wear
LPNY: What’s your favorite part of creating beautiful pieces as you do? Of being a designer?MN:In the past year I've stopped sketching everything I design, so to be honest I feel what I'm designing out on fabric and this is far more exciting especially the stage where it's skeleton is up and it’s time to clean it up with finishes, I am a child at this stage lol also very embarrassing but what do I care when I'm happy with the outcome loo. This is my design stage. The clothes are not limited by the pen. But rather the fabrics hidden characters to.