Sipho Mbuto showed his upcycled Dlala SS21 collection at SA Fashion Week on Thursday evening. Inspired by the tenacity of children who create toys with found objects, he has refashioned secondhand denim jeans. The can’t-miss labels offer the background to the sourcing of the fabrics and care instructions. We caught up with the Durban University of Technology fashion graduate to ask him about his life and work:
Tell us briefly about yourself.
I’m a village boy who loves the arts, music, and film.
You were born and grew up in the small town, Oshabeni [Kwazulu-Natal]. How did your upbringing influence your work?
I’ve been passionate about design since I was a kid. My parents are artisans who along with my siblings encouraged me to discover myself. I knew as a child that I wanted to pursue fashion design. I studied at Durban University of Technology and graduated three years ago.
What inspired you to start your own clothing brand? What about Reign SA?
During my studies I was very interested in the business of fashion and becoming a leader and working on my own. Reign SA was a collaboration with Ben Nozo but I am no longer part of the company anymore.
Tell us about your brand’s identity.
The brand is centred on the strength of individuality and not on sex, sexual orientation, societal order or other normative pressures.
Your products are uniquely crafted. Take us through your signature style and what defines your design?
Thanks for the compliment. Well, the influence comes from architectural structures and abstract art. I enjoy deconstructing and tearing things apart to reconstruct in way to create playful imaginative tales of craftsmanship that explore freedom of self-expression.
Who is your market and how do you access your market?
Our garments appeal to women and men between the ages of 25 and 60. Our clients are androgynous, free spirited and fashion forward. They don’t mind taking risks by trying new things. My marketing strategy is online but soon I will be launching my ready-to wear collection with Pick ‘n Pay Clothing.
What does sustainability mean to you and why is sustainability important in design?
It means being good to people, and designing with good impact on our environment. We believe that aesthetics and sustainability should go hand in hand. A beautiful garment should not destroy our planet.
What inspired the Dlala SS21 collection?
This collection is deeply inspired by African kids who play with objects they find in the street or dump sites. They come from disadvantaged backgrounds, grow up very hard but blossom like flowers and continue to becoming strong and full of courage. They are the hope for a better future.
What type of materials have you used? From where did you source them?
I used cotton denim, cotton linen and a mix of tulle to balance the shapes and textures. Some pieces are made out of upcycled denim which were deconstructed second hand jeans sourced from street markets. The Fabric Studio by Mint sponsored me rolls of deadstock cotton fabrics.
Do you think participating in competitions helps designers market themselves?
Yes, of course. For example, television channel BET Africa’s competition Made in Africa gave me an opportunity to be in a retail space.
What is most challenging about entering the fashion industry?
Finance. But by entering competitions and participating in the Ethical Fashion Initiative Accelerator Programme I have scaled up the business and attained profits.
Do you think fashion can help create a South African identity?
Yes as designers and industry, I truly believe we are storytellers and problem solvers, so using our creative voices we can help draw attention to social issues in our communities. It’s my goal to be a social business that attains profits and benefits society.
Which are your three favourite sustainable local brands?
Amanda Laird Cherry
The Dlala SS21 Collection
- Feature image and images in the gallery: Lizmarie Richardson Photography | Official SA Fashion Week Social Photographer
- Others: Solomon Mashakeni