Designer Spotlight: Breakthrough In A Pandemic – The Story Of Sindiso Khumalo

Sindiso Khumalo
Sindiso Khumalo in one of her outfits (Image credit: Net-a-Porter)

The coronavirus pandemic brought several challenges to both people and businesses all around the world. With many companies facing both closures and staff being retrenched, it would have been difficult to imagine a breakthrough in such times. Yet some businesses and individuals thrived during this bleak period. One such name that comes to mind is Sindiso Khumalo, a renowned South African designer whose fortunes changed in the middle of the pandemic.

At a time when businesses were experiencing losses and the possible risk of foreclosures, Sindiso’s brand rose through the ashes to become a household name. But how was this African designer able to navigate through the pandemic and come out with a stronger brand? Our designer spotlight today shines on Sindiso Khumalo and explores her magical rise to the top of her industry despite a raging pandemic.

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Sneak Peek into Sindiso Khumalo’s Background

Sindiso Khumalo is a Botswana fashion designer that is based in London. She grew up in Durban, South Africa where she got to experience different cultures that inform her fashion designs. As far as early education is concerned, there was nothing to show that Sindiso would become a fashion powerhouse later in life. Sindiso enrolled for a course in Architecture at the prestigious University of Cape Town and later went to London to further her work and studies. In London, she got to work with David Adjaye, a decorated and renowned architect.

It was also at this point that she chose to enroll for a Master of Arts (MA) in Design at the St Martins College of Art and Design. And she was so good that she not only got a distinction upon her graduation but her school project was a finalist at the ELLE SA Rising Star Awards of 2012. She went on to dominate several fashion houses and got numerous awards too. In 2015, she started her eponymous brand that focuses on fusing her traditional Ndebele and Shona patterns with modern designs.

2020: A Breakthrough Year for Sindiso Khumalo

Early on in 2020, Sindiso Khumalo was an enthusiastic lady. She was finally in talks with Net-a-Porter and a deal between the two brands was in the offing. Net-a-Porter is a fashion platform that offers various women products from coveted fashion brands around the world. At the same time, she was a semi-finalist in the LVMH prize awards and she was busy trying to perfect her presentation for the semi-finals. If all her stars would align, she was to hop from one European city to another as she presented her submissions in the talent awards. At least that was what she thought!

A couple of months in and all her dreams and hopes had faded as the coronavirus ravaged several countries across the world. Many European cities were placed on lockdown and travel was also halted in almost all parts of the world. It then became apparent that everything had changed and this would be a different year than planned. However, this was just the start of the challenges that she would go through later on in the year.

While she was one of the finalists of the LVMH prize awards, this did not go well with the reality in the world at the time. Thus, Sindiso found herself sidelined from the global fashion community. Many fashion houses are located in European cities such as Paris, Rome, and London among others. Instead, she was in Cape Town at the time and South Africa had just gone into a total lockdown. She had to close shop by shutting down her fashion studio and asking her staff to stay at home during this lockdown period. It became exceedingly difficult to manage running her brand as she could no longer contact overseas manufacturers.

Springing Back From The Effects Of The Pandemic

In response, Khumalo has started sourcing materials locally instead of relying on global manufacturers. After the closure of international trade routes, the only way to go around the issue was to source locally made materials. However, Sindiso has a very unique fashion style and she needed to find materials that reflected what her brand believed in. She was successful in this venture by getting unique materials such as organic cotton from Burkina Faso.

Her breakthrough sufficed when she was declared a finalist in the LVMH talent awards. While only one finalist gets the prize each year, the luxury group chose to award all eight finalists with the prize. Sindiso got a chance to network with fellow designers since LVMH organizes weekly meetings with industry experts to help finalists set up their brands successfully. These experts help budding designers with several topics ranging from creating unique designs to handling logistical challenges on the distribution side. Moreover, they also get lessons on matters of finance to help them create sustainable businesses. The pandemic also helped to level up the playing field for many designers such as Sindiso Khumalo who did not operate in the traditional fashion capitals such as Paris.

Sindiso Khumalo’s Iconic 2021 Spring Summer Collection

Sindiso Khumalo’s fashion designs get their inspiration from her African heritage and a mix of contemporary designs. Like all other Khumalo designs, the designer uses her collections to share stories of women that face marginalization in society but they still manage to make a huge impact. Her 2021 spring-summer collection, for example, got its inspiration from Harriet Tubman. Tubman was a slave that was captured as a child and worked on a cotton farm before freeing herself and coming back more than 10 times to free other captured slaves. Her 2021 Spring summer collection was a tribute to Tubman, and Sindiso was able to ace it perfectly.

The Minty Collection

A model in red and white dress
Red and White collaret dress (Image credit: Design Scene)


The 2021 summer spring collection was named Minty, after Harriet Tubman’s childhood name. This white and red dress features some floral patterns made from modern yet sustainable clothing designs that showcases the string attire that slaves wore when they were working out in the fields. It also includes some hand drawn designs from a local South African designer, Shakil Solanki. The cotton plantation where the gorgeous dress was shot at represents  Harriet Tubman’s work place when she was young. In this collection, Sindiso echoes some of the representation of slavery by fusing different patterns and prints in her dresses.

Cute black dress from Sindiso Khumalo (Image credit: Design Scene)


Another unique dress in Sindiso’s 2021 Minty collection, this bold dress is made from strong sustainable material that slaves wore during Tubman’s time. While it represents the slavery era, Sindiso fuses it with a contemporary touch that leaves you desiring for more. It features a unique collar that almost resembles the mandarin collar and a floral design on the hemline to give it a unique Neo-African look. This well-fitting dress showcases the unique style that Sindiso offers to fashion as it envisions her African heritage and modern style.

Stripped jumpsuit (Image credit: Design Scene)


If you would love a more traditional look then you will enjoy this beautiful outfit in Sindiso’s 2021 Minty collection. This jumpsuit is made from bold blue colors and white stripes. It is made from strong yet sustainable cotton that can withstand harsh weather elements and working conditions. It also comes with a blue jacket that compliments the overall look of the jumpsuit. You will also notice the unique blue pockets woven into the jacket and designed with a simple yet elegant pattern.

Sindiso Khumalo’s Modern Collection

While several African designers have tried to incorporate their African designs with contemporary styles, only a few have been able to do it as well as Khumalo. She draws her inspiration from her South African heritage and uses her knowledge in contemporary designs to make some fabulous pieces. Here are some of her unique collections.

Cute white collaret dress (Image credit: Sindiso Khumalo)


It is almost impossible to dispute how lovely this white dress from Sindiso Khumalo looks. Even from its looks only, one can tell that this dress is made from strong African fabric that is bound to serve you for years. Aside from the strong material, this dress also features unique handmade drawings that showcase African culture. You will also love the collaret that complements the white dress and the stylish collaret collar.

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Sindiso_Khumalo Blue Dress_0680.jpg
Blue patterned dress (Image credit: Sindiso Khumalo)


Sindiso Khumalo also has some exquisite designs that you can wear casually at home. With this simple look, you can rock it at home or attend an event with it. This blue dress is quite versatile and looks good enough for you to attend events with it. It is quite comfortable since it is made from strong cotton. The beautifully crafted sandals are also a unique offering that pairs with the dress quite well. It brings out the African design of the dress, which is also fitted with checked patterns for that modern edgy look and feel.

White and blue dress (Image credit: Sindiso Khumalo)


This well-fitting dress is another stunning piece from Sindiso Khumalo’s collection. It features a white dress with several drawings to illustrate African culture. The drawings show African villages, some African vegetation, and the native African people. This dress demonstrates the use of African culture in Sindiso’s designs and how she can integrate it so well with modern designs and fabrics. A brown woven hat is also included to complement the beautiful look. If you are looking for an African-inspired dress then it can be impossible to go wrong with this one.

Sindiso Khumalo’s Colorful Collection

Some people love bold colors while others prefer some bright colors to complement their skin tones or other accessories. African designs embrace bold designs and colors but Sindiso also unveils colorful designs and floral patterns. If you love colorful designs then you will enjoy this colorful collection by Sindiso Khumalo.

Sindiso Blue dress

Beautiful floral dress (Image credit: Sindiso Khumalo)

If you want an elegant modern dress then this unique outfit from Sindiso Khumalo will suit you pretty well. This dress not only looks good but it also feels as great as it looks. The blue dress comes with drawn patterns that enhance its aesthetics. It comes with short sleeves and a high collar that covers your whole neck. The white boots and gloves match perfectly with this dress and will surely turn heads everywhere you go.

Grey Sindiso dress
Grey dress with flowered designs (Image credit: Sindiso Khumalo)


Do you prefer floral dresses that come in bold colors? This outfit features a grey dress with a beautiful design to accentuate your body shape. The dress comes from sustainable yet attractive fabric that will serve you for long. The designer also included some floral patterns of leaves  in the dress to showcase African vegetation. Aside from the floral patterns, the white gloves and white boots complement the dress perfectly too.

Sindiso"s Jacket
Multi-colored jacket from Sindiso (Image credit: Sindiso Khumalo)


Sindiso Khumalo’s brand is not only about dresses. The company also makes beautiful attires like jackets that  compliment your African wear. This jacket mixes some bold and light colors including black, grey, and pick. It works well during the cold season and will ensure that you also look marvelous.

Summer Pieces by Sindiso Khumalo

Sindiso Khumalo also has some great outfits that work perfectly during summer or for those who live in the tropics. And while summer outfits are often colorful or floral by design, Khumalo presents a couple of summer outfits with bold colors. These outfits are great for everyday wear but you can also attend daytime events with them.

Cute floral summer dress (Image credit: Sindiso Khumalo)


This summer dress features several bold colors along with some floral patterns to give you a stunning look. You can wear it during the day when the sun is red hot or pair it with a jacket at night. The dress features colorful hand drawings of multi-colored leaves, which may be a representation of the African vegetation. The handmade animal fur sandals  give it a classy look to match the elegant dress.

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BGorgeous summer dress (Image credit: Sindiso Khumalo)


Looking for a cute dress to grace your next summer event? Look no further, this elegant dress is all you need to turn heads wherever you will go. This multi-colored dress has several patterns that work well even on dark skin tones. It is comes with long sleeves and is quite lengthy as it extends down to your feet. The summer dress pairs with animal fur sandals that complement its unique African design.


Sindiso Khumalo’s rise to the top has not been conventional as she saw her breakthrough during the pandemic. At a time when several businesses were going under, she found a way to take advantage of the opportunities surrounding her. Sindiso’s brand has been creating unique pieces since its inception in 2015. And her star is still shining even after the deadly coronavirus pandemic disrupted business in South Africa.

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