Imagine this family portrait.
The backdrop is Fuata Moyo’s new production space, a few days after the Mbiola siblings took occupation. Kabambi (KB) is in his paint-splattered dungarees and customised carrier bag, Martine sits on a chair draped in an upcyled denim jacket featuring a hand-painted portrait of Virgil Abloh, and Tshimaro is wearing a statement black outfit with his ‘Art is God’ creations.
Fuata Moyo was launched in 2020, a time of global crisis. The name is a Swahili saying which means “follow the heART.” This is the ethos by which the Mbiola family lives and works.
Although, calling Fuata Moyo a brand seems reductive. It doesn’t capture the expansive essence of what the family does. From refashioning clothing and upcycling garments, to adorning them with hand-painted artworks and creating new garments with flair and considered tailoring – Fuata Moyo feels more like the process of building a family legacy.
KB says that Fuata Moyo is the continuation of his father’s legacy as an artist. After their father passed away, the siblings felt called to band together as a multi-disciplinary team.
Kabambi is an artist and fashion designer; Martine is an artist, graphic designer, and photographer; and Lucy and Tshimaro are both fashion designers, creative directors, and stylists. The golden thread is that they are all artists and Fuata Moyo allows them to use fashion as their medium of expression.
When we asked them if they ever squabble, the room filled with laughter. “It’s not that we don’t have disagreements,” says Martine, “we do but we always work them out.” Perhaps what makes this family brand so special is that each sibling’s offering is unique but complimentary.
Fashion is not only their canvas for artistic expression, it is also their medium fashion activism. Fuata Moyo is shifting our emotional attachment to clothing, transforming the culture of thoughtless overconsumption, inspiring creativity, and reminding us that we should see our clothing as the democratisation of art.
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or services over another. If consumers believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand,” adds KB.
Fuata Moyo is proof that culture is at the heart of sustainability, and we need to shift our understanding and aspirations when it comes to the fashion industry.
“Manufacturers are influenced by demands, which means that consumers play a major role in what is produced. The growth in ethical consumption behavior and greater interest in sustainable fashion is based on personal values. Most consumers do not realise their contribution and influence to the overall manufacturing of sustainable fashion,” says KB.
Just as their brand is a collaboration between siblings, this spirit of collaboration doesn’t end with the siblings. KB believes that collaboration is the future and Fuata Moyo practices what they preach by welcoming others to walk the journey with them – an invitation to join the family, if you will.
“Africa is the future,” says KB. He believes that we need to centre the work and storytelling of African people and African brands.
The openness to collaborate stems from Fuata Moyo’s struggle to break into an industry that does not favour small brands and people who don’t come from a place of privilege.
Recently, Tshimaro posted a throw-back Instagram story about looking for a studio space. It read: “When we make it, they are going to say it was easy.”
There are so many barriers to entry in this industry, especially for small, Black-owned businesses that are challenging the status quo. “Most startup fashion businesses struggle tremendously in the beginning stages with production difficulties. The mass factory closures in the country and the available manufacturing companies only producing big quantities disadvantages independent designers and small brands,” says Lucy.
When they first started KB approached multiple CMTs (cut make trim factories) but were turned away because the industry standard for a minimum order is 50 pieces. Securing funding to start a brand is another hurdle.
Despite this, the Mbiola siblings have followed their hearts.
Now, the family is ready for the next chapter of Fuata Moyo and itching to make the production space – House of Moyo (House of Hearts) – their own. Their new in-house manufacturing space, in a building in the Cape Town CBD with a long history in the garment industry, is full of industrial sewing machines used by a team of skilled CMTS. The expertly tailored garments on a row of mannequins is testament to this skill.
“Opening House of Moyo has always been the vision for our brand and we also aim to help other emerging South African brands to start up the way we have. The plan is to create jobs for talented seamstresses, pattern makers, and interns willing to grow in the manufacturing industry,” says Lucy.
As we leave, KB exclaims, “Next time you visit, you won’t recognise the place. We’ll have paint splattered everywhere and we’ll have made this space our own!” If there is one constant about Fuata Moyo, it’s the fact that they keep evolving.
We can’t wait to see what else this multi-talented family has in store for us.
- If you would like to get in touch with Fuata Moyo about using their House of Moyo CMT services, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For more information, check out the Fuata Moyo website and follow them on Instagram.
- Fuata Moyo currently stocks at EGG.
- Images: Cover image and family portrait by Ronnie Basaijja.