A chat with Pumla and Ntoyonke Dlamini might leave you wishing that you, too, recited Sibalukhulu, Nkosi and Lokothwayo as your ancestral clan names.
The kooky-cool siblings are the youngest of four daughters and the team behind MaDlamini Sisters in Vintage, an indie label dealing in bespoke leather goods, refashioned vintage wear and whimsical accessories.
Their love of their Dlamini heritage is tightly woven into the fabric of their brand. Besides expressing it through their logo, the entrepreneurs do product shoots at their family’s rural homestead in KwaZulu-Natal. Mealie fields, pastel huts, woven grass mats – they take pleasure in marrying the urban hipness of their products with the quiet, ageless atmosphere of their ancestral home.
Pumla, the elder of the two, is a nutritionist in Johannesburg by day and a globetrotter whenever she is able. The beautiful leatherwork she encountered on her travels in part influenced her and Ntoyonke’s decision to include handmade handbags and shoes in their venture.
“We decided that we had to create an undeniably African brand, MaDlamini,” she says.
“Everyone has met a MaDlamini during his or her life. She is usually warm, expressive, unique. Maybe a little loud and bold – just like our brand. We love our professions, and how we are able to add value to the world. That being said, MaDlamini provides us with an outlet for expressing our creativity.”
Ntoyonke, an environmentalist, is the Durban-based, main champion of the vintage-wear element of the label.
“I felt that it was essential to recycle vintage clothing. This is not only to give it a new lease on life, but also to reduce our impact on the environment by minimising the use of natural resources.”
Growing up with a musician father who had magpie tendencies was another influence on the sisters.
“Our upbringing was an interesting and colourful one. Our father was a saxophonist in a band called Music Miners, who were the cool, oldish cats from Chesterville that played the blues and African jazz. Our Sundays were spent listening to and making lunch and tea for the band rehearsals.
“Our father was a unique character and always encouraged us to do things our own way,” says Ntoyonke.
“Our home was always full of second-hand collectibles. We didn’t think this was cool then, but when we got older, we got hooked on vintage. We were fascinated by how beautiful and unique we felt when we wore our vintage pieces.”
Pumla and Ntoyonke worked on their range for two years before launching in October. It includes full-grain cow leather bags in versatile, classic styles, made-to-measure oxfords, and quality vintage clothes reworked into statement pieces.
“Each piece we make has to speak to one or all elements of the MaDlamini brand. And you should be able to wear one or all of our items at the same time. It should all work together to tell the story of your individual style.”
- Their range is available nationally through www.madlamini.com; at Durban’s I Heart Market; and they courier worldwide.