Thando Ntuli credits her mom and gran for her fashion design inspiration
Showcasing in Lagos Fashion Week a wish come true for young Sowetan
At the of age 25, Soweto fashion designer Thando Ntuli has achieved her greatest fashion milestone yet – the opportunity to showcase at the distinguished Lagos Fashion Week.
The creator and founder of the Munkus label believes the showcase is a nod from the African fashion community and her peers that she must be doing something right.
“I get the opportunity to participate in something that I have looked up to for a long time. Nigeria has always been a country that I’ve put on a pedestal about what I can learn and adopt into my designs; special skills that I can’t necessarily find in the next person. I’m excited about my next work now that I have opened my mind to even greater and cooler things,” Ntuli of Orlando West says.
However, this is not the Youtuber and designer’s first runway bouquet. Not long after founding Munkus in 2019, Ntuli stepped into fashion history when she became the winner of SA Fashion Week New Talent Search in 2022. Since then, Munkus designs have become synonymous with colourful abstract motifs and sensational outerwear layering pieces.
Starlets Lehlogonolo Machaba and Tshiamo Modisane have modelled Munkus creation in SMag. Her latest collection, which she also showcased in Lagos, titled uMama Wami – My Mother – hit home as it pays homage to her mother and the women in her family.
“She is someone who is a giver, nurturer, loving, leader and fighter. My mom and grandmother are important people and I don’t know who I would be if I didn’t have their influence in my life, even till this day.” she says.
Ntuli’s close relationship with her mother and grandmother has always been supportive and resembles somewhat of a sisterhood, she explains. It’s through that closeness that Ntuli was given permission to thrift through their wardrobes and adapt their clothing to suit her small frame.
“No matter if it was my gran’s or my mom’s, I could find a way to wear it despite my age and in a way that makes sense for me,” she says.
“I believe that influenced me design pieces that close the age gap when it comes to clothing and made it more about how you feel and how comfortable you are rather than someone telling you that you are too young or too old to be wearing that.”
Munkus, Ntuli’s childhood nickname, is a name that incites a sense of home, comfort and a soft landing place when life gets hard. This is the same sentiment that Ntuli extends to all women when she designs her clothing.
“The Munkus women have that self-confidence as if no one is watching and take on the world in a way that they want to. I am also allowing them to play a part in putting and styling their outfits through layering to feel as comfortable as they want to feel that day.”
With her trajectory to fashion success set, Ntuli shares with us how she keeps her skin, hair and mental health in check.
Eat your way to good skin
I’m a small girl, so if I don’t eat I’m quite thin. I eat plenty of protein, and food and do weights at the gym just to maintain a healthy weight and to have strength and energy for the day. I believe that contributes to my glowing skin. I’ve never been anyone with serious acne but as I’ve gotten older I have put more importance on what I eat.
Keep those hands out of your hair
I normally have my ’fro out when I feel I need to be confident and need to be seen in the room. I don’t know if an afro is a superpower but it sometimes feels like it. Keeping it away (from my fingers) and allowing it to grow and just moisturising has been the simplest thing. Not playing around with it too much and letting it do what it wants to do, apart from that I don’t think I’ve done anything that anyone else has done differently.
Do what makes you happy
When I work out I feel and think so much better because my body feels great and that makes me feel proud of my body. Loving what you do also matters. Coming from corporate right after varsity I decided I wanted more creativity, which pushed me out of my comfort zone. The key is to be consistent in what you do. I don’t think that I’m more talented than my peers and other designers, but being consistent has helped me. Even though I couldn’t see the benefits at the beginning and never saw a clear picture of where I was going, eventually it did work out. Being consistent and believing in yourself is hard to do for anyone.
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