Once a science student and now an eco-fashion designer, Nombuso Khanyile's eco-friendly yet trendy bags and shoes have earned her own design label and she has notched up two fashion accolades.
By Neesha Maharaj - Freelance Journalist
The Bachelor of Science student at UKZN (University of KwaZulu-Natal) won first place in the Durban Youth Connect Innovation Business Fair for her novel fashion accessories. More recently she bagged the accolade of emerging creative within the top 10 designers at the Design Indaba in Durban.
In 2016, Khanyile explored the idea of opening a business with a difference. The outcome was creating vibrantly coloured bags and shoes with eco-friendly materials and Afrikan Passion Designs was born.
When creating her leather sandals, Khanyile uses tyres for the soles of the shoes. Ehen she creates her boldly coloured leather bags, she incorporates recycled fabric and plastic into the mix.
“I’m elated that the fashion industry has recognised my designs and awarded me. It’s amazing to know that people out there appreciate my designs and want to use the products I hand make. I’m very particular about the materials I use. I buy good quality leather and all my bags and sandals have eco-friendly elements.
“I went into business four years ago because I am a NFSAS funded student and I needed to earn money of my own to survive. I started off selling my goods at the flea markets and through word of mouth people heard of my products and were interested in buying my bags and sandals. Presently, young working adults between the ages of 20-28 years-old buy my products which I now also sell online. An online presence has boosted my business and I’m earning a steady income,” said Khanyile.
Inspiration for the 24-year-old comes from been environmentally conscious and her aspirations to promote the spirit of self-reliance and sustainability. She said every individual needs to be cognisant of how global warming is harming the environment and make a conscious effort to protect our planet.
Making a success of her fashion label also spurs Khanyile on because it also helped her get out of mental illness. She had suffered from depression around 2015 having to cope with studying and financial troubles. She also had to come to terms with learning that her loved ones – both friends and relatives from her home town of Ulundi in KwaZulu-Natal were infected by HIV.
“As a fashion designer, I’m able to convey a personal message through my art. The pieces of leather I sew together to create a bag has a more empowering story. It indicates that you can beat depression and put the pieces of your life back together. Being eco-friendly I have learnt not to throw away any pieces of leather leftover from a job even if they are small. It can somehow be used in another design,” she said.
The final year student who majors in microbiology and biochemistry has her career mapped out. She aims to use her scientific knowledge in the fight against Aids and therefore plans to work in HIV research once she qualifies. With her fashion line, she plans to expand her business and provide employment to women who are sole breadwinners.
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