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Phathi combines architecture with jewellery design

Like clothes and hairstyles, accessories are more than fashion. They are an extension of who we are - our personalities, attitude and outlook towards life. They can spell edgy, eccentric, glamorous, over the top or classic.

Phathi Katurah Hlongwane, an architect by profession, says her range, Inkaturah, is, in essence, who she is.

Originally from Zimbabwe, she came to South Africa to study architecture at the University of Cape Town and her postgraduate degree at Wits in Johannesburg.

But she left while training in her chosen career to pursue a career in the fashion industry.

"I worked for a short period as a project manager for a fashion brand. The fashion background allowed me to learn and explore retail in its entirety and it was an eye opener.

"I started Inkaturah because I was always interested in fashion and this is the preferred industry I wanted to be a part of.

"I initially began designing garments and I was selling handcrafted jewellery as a way to create capital. I enjoyed the process so much that I shifted my focus to the jewellery," she says.

The business has been running full-time since May last year, but she began the process just a little over two years ago.

Hlongwane cleverly combines her love for architecture with creating extraordinary pieces.

"My pieces are unique, miniature expressions with a contemporary African aesthetic. The geometries are reminiscent of my background in architecture and I mix these with various materials such as brass, fabric and glass beads. I love to experiment with materials and shapes and so I have combined the two to create statement pieces and so far a lot of ladies are responding well to that.

"I did not go for formal courses. I used my existing skills from architecture and others I learnt along the way. I outsource some elements from local suppliers although I intend to train formally in the coming year," she says.

The name Inkaturah is derived from her middle name, Katurah, which means perfume.

"Perfume is often the metaphor for a person's character, therefore the full meaning is 'in essence'. It is about a person being able to express themselves. So essentially it means being one with self or being in your essence."

Hlongwane says the ideal women who buy from her are those with a keen eye for art that love to stand out and be different.

"The pieces have been well received by local and international clients and are often bought as gifts. The Inkaturah woman is a bold woman who knows what she wants and is unapologetic."

A big fan of her designs is songstress Lira.

"It's a funny story, actually. I love her style and I always wanted to style her for a while, actually, but media personalities can be inaccessible. So I asked my friend to help me get hold of her. My initial plan was to just gift her the earrings because I knew she would love them but that never happened and one day I was surprised to find that she had placed an order. It was truly a humbling experience. Since then, Ayanda Borotho and Didie Makobane, as well as Buhle Samuels, have worn my earrings."

To get the best out of her pieces she advises dressing according to your own taste and personality because the brand is about self expression.

She says Inkaturah blends in well with any work outfit, casual wear and evening wear.

Hlongwane's goal is to take the brand globally and to venture into other areas of design.

Prices range from R160 to R550 and can be found at 'The Space', Hse of Bespoke, Ledikana and Made-in-ZA. She also runs a pop-up store every Saturday at the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein and every Sunday at Market on Main in Maboneng.