A finer quality of craftsmanship is returning to the local textile industry. A shimmering example of this is Phumzile Ntuli’s Zyle Clothing.
We meet with the head designer and owner of this up-and-coming brand at Mall of Africa in Midrand, where Zyle Clothing has a stall.
Ntuli tells us about her unity blanket designs – which lend inspiration from the Ndebele culture – and about her views on the fashion space as a relatively new comer.
Zyle Clothing offers a full blanket poncho as well as a slightly small one, not unlike a shawl but not quite one either, in bold and symbolic colours and with a small motivation printed on the label of each.
Ntuli switched fields from construction to fashion, but says what she learnt from the world of bricks and mortar has helped her erect a sturdy fashion line.
“It was difficult because I’m one person who puts my all into something. I dedicate myself to everything I do, so with construction I wasn’t just doing it, I was giving my all.
“It was difficult for my customers to move from me as I was doing sales, so I had to open my own construction company, which deals with construction and material supplies.
“I realised that me being in this space is something that I can be happy about even if I don’t make money. [The work] actually completes me, so obviously if something completes you without you being paid it must be your passion.”
The change made sense and it has been a fruitful endeavour as Zyle now has two stalls – the other being in Sandton City – and also kits out SA Tourism with some of its creations.
For the first time in her professional career Ntuli feels like she has arrived, and that’s after stints in insurance and even property. It can be hard to gauge when you might locate the path best suited for you, but when one does, they’d be fortunate to have the outcome look and feel anything like the creations at Zyle.
“I’m trying to convey messages. I’m a library in the form of clothing”, the learned Ntuli tells us.
She points out a circular marking on her blanket and suggests that it is among an array of African imagery or designs that we are constantly exposed to but have little understanding of its symbolic significance. The circle represents unity and graces all the colourways of what she has named the “unity blanket”, the bedrock of her brand.
“It’s worn by married women in the amaNdebele tribe, so it’s a little like a ring, a show of your commitment. It also suggests love and respect.”
This is what Ntuli subliminally tasks her clientele to do – commit to their culture and live life in a circular fashion. A harmony with no intersecting deviations.
“We need to understand that beauty doesn’t sell, the story does. What makes people buy something is the benefit of having a piece of clothing apart from that thing being beautiful.”
Our textile industry is not what it once was, with the hub of manufacturing in Cape Town fuelling the aggressive demand from Johannesburg. Now a lot of what goes into local designs has to be imported, which Ntuli is looking to do away with in time.
She says: “Unfortunately, South Africa is struggling, so not everything is made locally. Like the yarns, they have to be imported, so it becomes a problem, which is something I’m looking at because we clearly don’t have businesses if we rely on other people.
“I’m not saying it’s wrong to outsource or to import, but you can’t import the main product and say you have a solid business. If a country decides to say ‘no, we’re no longer interested’ then that kills your business.”
The next logical step is to be able to supply her own wool for Zyle’s garments, which would require the acquisition of land and livestock.
Zyle Clothing is giving four lucky City Press readers the chance to win a branded T-shirt. To enter, SMS your name, surname, shirt size, province, email address and the keyword ZYLE to 34217. SMSes cost R1.50. Free SMSes do not apply. Terms and conditions apply.
See more of Zyle Clothing on Instagram @zyleclothingsa
Visit its physical locations at Mall of Africa and in Sandton