DURBAN’S FASHION GODDESS: MAMSIE MKHWANAZI
By: Nqobile Tembe
She is the brains behind Afrolucious Designs, a label proving to be a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry.
Fashion has been Mkhwanazi’s first love since childhood. Being the only female child with three brothers, she spent most of her time in her bedroom sketching and reading books.
“I was the only girl, so I’d say I grew up in my bedroom always sketching and reading books my mom and dad used to get me. I think creativity was born within the walls of my bedroom,” she says.
She completed her degree in fashion at Linea Fashion Design Academy, a London-based fashion college which closed its branch in Durban just a year after her graduation. She considers herself to be very lucky to have studied at a college like Linea although it was not her first choice.
“I had actually applied to the Durban University of Technology to pursue a diploma in fashion design, but something went wrong with my application so I opted for Linea Academy even though their fees were expensive,” she added.
Mkhwanazi is truly grateful to have an amazing and supportive family who understands the demands of her career. She admits that it is extremely difficult to strike a balance between family time and work pressure.
“It’s not easy to have a family and also be a designer, because when you travel you have to put a lot of work into the designs that you’re going to showcase overseas. It is really hard for me to travel and also do the work, but at least I have an understanding family,” she says.
She has really big dreams for her label. Mkhwanazi wants to have a fashion empire whereby Afrolucious Designs will not only be found in South Africa, but internationally on fashion hubs such as Paris, New York and London.
She believes that with hard work and determination her dream will come true.
“It’s not just for me, but for my family that even when I’ve passed on, they will continue with Afrolucious. Therefore I don’t see my label as a temporary thing or something I can generate profit out of now,” she said.
Mkhwanazi’s designs have been shown locally and internationally. One of her biggest achievements was taking first place at the Vodacom Durban July in 2003. She has showcased her work in shows like Africa Fashion Week in London, Mona Fashion Show and Berlin Fashion Week, just to mention a few.
She is privileged to have worked alongside Ernest O. Look and Lisa Wennekes, both from Germany, who were also present at this year’s Vodacom Durban July.
“Having people like Ernest and Lisa really helps because it makes me focus and understand what people expect from the South African market. Overseas people expect something African- the African fabric that they do not normally find in their stores,” Mkhwanazi said.
She is blessed with two daughters, Naomi and Daisy, and Mkhwanazi prefers keeping a low profile.
“The thing is once you get your private life in the media you constantly have to update them [media] with the highs and lows of your life. That is why I choose to keep private matters private,” she said.