Design Indaba Emerging Creative: Phumelela Malinga

phumelela malinga

WORDS Lindi Brownell Meiring IMAGES Asanele Mfengu

Design Indaba and the Department of Arts and Culture celebrated 16 years of the Emerging Creatives programme earlier this year, which gives 50 talented young designers a chance to show their work at the event. We caught up with Joburg-based fashion designer and mechanical engineer Phumelela Malinga to find out more about his career transition and inspirations.

From mechanical engineering to fashion: what made you decide to make the jump?

Fashion was always embedded in me. When I was growing up, my mother wouldn’t let me leave the house without properly coordinated outfits. I studied mechanical engineering, so fashion took a back seat – but I like to believe I was the coolest engineering student in my class! What really catalysed the jump from engineering to fashion was the lack of variety of prints, cuts and colours in men’s retail departments. Walking through the women’s section always left me asking, “Why is there so much variety?” I noticed this gap and set my sights on filling it.

What do you love most about creating?

It’s empowering. There’s just something about starting the day with nothing and ending it with something tangible that excites me. What I love most about it is the journey of constantly surprising myself with my increasing ability and interest in a topic.

What does your brand BY PHUME stand for?

In addition to creating high-quality customer experiences, the BY PHUME brand is a youth-driven movement. It focuses on empowering the youth by creating a network that stems from a common place of interest. We believe in the talent and potential of the youth, and we nurture that through collaborations and engaging content.

Biggest inspiration?

I think when local talent Thebe Magugu recently won the prestigious LVMH Prize, it was massively inspiring. He was the first African designer to achieve this kind of global recognition. That gives young designers such as myself great confidence, because the world is finally acknowledging the talent that we know we’ve always had. I am inspired and motivated to add a chapter to African fashion history.

Do you have any upcoming plans you can share with us?

The brand’s focus for 2020 is ready-to-wear apparel. In many ways, first impressions last, and since we are a new brand, we want to set up a strong foundation for the future. We will also be working on expanding our footprint locally and internationally.

Follow BY PHUME on Instagram to keep up to date with the brand’s latest news.