The brand was founded in September 2016, but in terms of it being official it was in April 2017, and we have been growing strong ever since.
It was founded by myself, Langa, and my wife, Unathi. The back story is that we were on a trip to the U.S.A and saw that everyone, even South Africans, looked the same as those from abroad. So, shortly after arriving back from the trip we took a conscious decision to wear clothes that were locally made, and clothes we thought stood out and distinguished us from everybody else.
We stopped buying clothes from stores and started making them. Our neighbour at the time was a seamstress, so we would buy material and she would make the clothes for us. We made clothes for ourselves and our kids. People started seeing the clothes and they liked them, especially our friends, and we thought we could make a business out of it. That's how Sinkwa Sethu was birthed.
Isinkwa sethu, semihla ngemihla, meaning our daily bread. The whole concept of our brand is to add colour to our every day. "For a colourful people" – that is our motto. Traditional African clothes are normally for occasions, but our plan was to bring the traditional African clothes concept to the fore of our everyday life. Whether you're going to a meeting or work, sitting at home, out with friends and so forth, it would be normal to wear African clothing. We believe that's what it should feel like.
When my wife and I met at university I was studying marketing and she studied economics, and the plan was always to pursue those kind of professions, but along the way we seemed to take different routes. My wife did go into corporate, and I went on and pursued music with the South African contemporary Gospel group We Will Worship. When we had our first child, we decided that she would stay home and from then on she started taking pictures of our baby, and people were into her photography and they wanted her services as well, which is how her Unathi Mbonambi Photography career started. These were not the kind of things we thought we would pursue, but things that we found along the way; things we enjoyed and grew into. We learnt a lot along the way. We are the type of people that just do things, why not?
I am responsible for all the designing and, the seamstress stitches everything together, following the designs. We work out patterns and test them out on friends to see if they like it. Unathi, on the other hand, handles all the back-end tasks, the online concept, social media, website and so forth.
We use a lot of Ishweshwe, which is a Sotho print, particularly because of the colours. We like it because it is a South African print and found nowhere else but here. Our Spring range will be the Tsongo culture with the flowers and colourful prints, and IsiXhosa – Umbhaco – for winter because of the heavy and tough material. We also have the Venda print coming up soon.
We work as a collective, my family and I. Everything we do revolves around the issue of identity. This is something we are trying to instil in our kids – to be proud of who they are and who they have been made to be. Even with the music I make, we make sure that we sing in our languages. We actually home-school our kids and part of that journey is to play a big role in their character building, and in that we want to play part in being proud Africans. The embracing of what we have and who we are also plays a big role into the clothes we make. Identity! Not only being a special occasions thing, but an everyday thing.
We are looking into reaching out globally, as the desire for African clothes already exists. Another goal of ours is to just continue as a family, especially as an African family, whether it be through fashion, music, lifestyle... We just aim to inspire.