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Q&A: Shamyra Moodley sees the future of sustainable fashion as DIY-fashion-meets-art

by | Nov 27, 2020

Former accountant turned designer Shamyra Moodley recently participated in her first fashion show. Selected as one of the six designers to join African Fashion International’s 2020 year-long Fastrack programme, Shamyra was tasked to create three new looks in three weeks using existing clothes for a Johannesburg Fashion Week show in November.

Shamyra’s label Laaniraani, which is stocked at Merchants on Long in Cape Town, is an eclectic, upcycled brand. The DIY cut-and-paste girl’,  ‘tinker fairy’, ‘eclectic assortment’ or ‘Green Queen’  are just some descriptors for Shamyra who regards fashion as a boundless, forever-changing playground. Shamyra says, “People flip houses and well, I have been flipping clothes ever since I can remember. I flip clothes, give them new life and a new chapter so the story can continue.”

We chatted to Laaniraani about her homemade and handmade work and inspiration.

Was this the first fashion show for you as designer?

Yes, I am a digital/virtual show virgin. I absolutely loved the video content and the home studio footage covering the story behind the collection. I loved working with the AFI team and getting involved in all aspects of the creative process outside the actual creation of just the garments. On a good note my first Instagram reel using a 30 second mash-up of my first showing hit over 10k views. I love the idea of fashion being inclusive and that everyone could view the show from the comfort of their homes. I had friends and family from all over the world watching. The face of fashion has changed and will continue to change. I have to applaud all the designers for managing to create during this crisis – I know first-hand just how tough that was.

Tell us about your collection.

We had three weeks to create three sustainable looks. Because drama usually follows close behind me, throw into the mix the creation of my first bespoke, hand-beaded, embroidered and painted wedding dress which used a 30-year-old vintage sari. You can be sure the magnitude of this task kept this accountant-turned-creative on her toes.

The AFI brief of a sustainable pandemic-relevant collection repurposing items from my closet was a challenge that excited this crafty mama. I see the future of sustainable fashion as DIY-fashion-meets-art. So, charging ahead with over 200 neck ties donated by my grandad, dad and father-in-law who are all retired teachers, I embarked on a journey using fashion in a novel way to tell my story. “The something new” combined with my long-standing family history is embedded in the academic world. This combination translated into beautiful, timeless, one of a kind garments to be loved and enjoyed by future generations.

Using techniques of quilting, free motion stitching and appliqué, I was able to create joyful, bright pieces using once-discarded neck ties. Bright neon thread, an ode to doodling at school with highlighters – no blank pages or colouring within the lines here. Go big or go home. Homemade and handmade, we certainly aimed high. We were able to include handwoven statement pieces, earrings, clutch bags and even some gold veldskoene which were handcrafted by a local female shoemaker using our left over fabrics scrap. With zero waste always front of mind, every part of the necktie used. We even used the labels by boldly stitching them across face masks as we now venture into our ‘new normal’, fearless and positive for better days to come. We have been tied and tested yet we have emerged triumphant.

Tell us about Shamyra Moodley before Laaniraani.

Until baby number two showed up I practiced as an accountant with a special interest in global brand strategy and innovation. During my extended maternity leave I became captured by the world of the creative. I decided, in quite an unconsidered manner, to literally break the mould. Almost suddenly, and quite organically, I morphed into what my friends refer to as the hybrid. I am apparently best depicted as an eclectic assortment, part South African, part Indian and part Irish. I wanted to narrate my style evolution and hence my sustainable style blog was born

A year later, I had a once in a lifetime, by chance encounter with Suzy Menkes who encouraged me to make my fashion design dream a reality. Here I am and I couldn’t be happier.

What does fashion mean to you?

I use fashion in novel ways to express how I feel. It’s my medium of play. Fashion is timeless. It tells a story of who you are, and importantly, from where you have come. I see it as being a developmental process. I still have a few pieces from when I was 12-years-old which I still wear today. My matric dance dress which I designed is now officially a vintage piece and two decades later, it still turns heads. The moral of the story? Never follow trends, make your own! I am a girl that likes blending ‘something old’ with the ‘something new’. Yes, I’m a bit of a DIY, cut-and-paste girl…creativity is in my DNA. I am happiest creating. DIY feeds my soul.

How would you describe the Laaniraani style?

Eclectic and quirky, yet elegant. I don’t think too much about my style… My gut instinct and confidence drive my choices. Fashion from the heart!

Who has influenced this style?

Both my grannies, my mum and, sometimes I am my own muse. Laaniraani is my creation and reflects me, at my absolute best. I think I mirror the confidence that these incredibly special women share. We are a colourful, layered, complex, and for lack of a better word, spicy bunch. If fashion was food, we would definitely be the regal “Breyani” with a side of French elegance. The first step about elegance is looking the part, but what seals the deal is feeling it, too!

When did you become aware of the importance of sustainability?

To be honest, it’s the only fashion I know…I have been doing this ever since I was a 12-year-old girl. It’s ingrained in who I am. People flip houses and well, I have been flipping clothes ever since I can remember. I flip clothes, give them new life and a new chapter so the story can continue. Sustainable, slow fashion and living has caught fire in the last decade while many people and communities, especially from the African continent have been living this way for centuries.

The clothing industry is one of the greatest contributors of carbon emissions. As consumers we are finally realising the power we have – the way we spend, or don’t spend, our money literally has the power to change our world. As consumers we have a right to transparency and accountability from brands. As a board-certified accountant, I am governed by a set of ethics and I am excited to see something similar for fashion designers.

Fashion pet peeves?

People who don’t know how to mend their own clothes – all you need is thread and a needle – and perhaps a YouTube video. It’s an essential skill that should be taught at school. It was in my day.

Top 3 tips to pursue a more sustainable, more conscious wardrobe and lifestyle?

1. Shop in your existing closet – get creative.
2. Shop in your mum’s closet, even better, your gran’s closet. There are treasures to be discovered.
3. Secondhand gifting is a good thing. Spread the love and share preloved goods. Give thrifting a go. It’s cost-effective, provides an immediate thrill and it is good for the planet.

Watch a snippet of Laaniraani’s collection here:

  • For more information about Laaniraani, visit her website
  • Follow Laaniraani on instagram @laaniraani
  • Image Credits: All the edits and creative direction by Shamyra Moodley and photos in order of appearance by:
  1. AFI: Supplied
  2. Radz Photography
  3. Fayros Jaffer



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