Designers We Love: Kushn

INTERVIEWED BY Lindi Brownell Meiring

We recently spotted Kushn’s expertly crafted designs at Watershed at the V&A and just had to find out more. We caught up with co-founder Thembalezwe Mntambo about this exciting brand.

How did Kushn start?

My partner (Greer Valley) and I officially launched Kushn in 2011. Prior to this, we started making sling bags from off-cuts and rejects sourced from mainstream retailers as part of a community project we were involved with called The Tswalo Project in Nyanga. As the project drew to an end, we began working with leather and wax prints to create a range of laptop bags and device holders specifically for Apple products.

Upon further research and travelling to West and East Africa, we were exposed to traditional woven fabrics such as Kente and Ewe cloth from Ghana and Shemma cloth from Ethiopia. The fabrics are produced using age-old weaving techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation. We were fascinated with the idea of incorporating these woven fabrics – with their sophisticated patterns, vibrant colours and ancient symbology – into our product range.

We now produce satchels, backpacks, laptop sleeves, clutch purses and shoes from locally sourced leather and canvas (as our foundation), adding the woven fabric for accent.   

Tell us more about Kushn’s beautifully crafted shoes. How (and where) are they made?

The signature aesthetic (leather and canvas with handwoven textiles) is applied across our range of products, including our shoes. We reference classic shoe styles such as brogues, veldskoene, pumps and add our own design sensibility to the finished item. We’ve teamed up with skilled, independent leather craftsmen based in the city to produce the shoes.

Which of your products did you enjoy creating the most, and why?

More than anything we enjoy discovering and experimenting with the textiles we source and finding interesting ways of making them relevant to our designs. If we had to choose a specific product we’re enjoying creating at the moment, it would be the mens and ladies brogues. We started making shoes in earnest at the beginning of this year, so we’re quite excited about what we’ve created so far and equally excited about possibilities for the future.

What can we look forward to seeing from Kushn in 2015?

From a product development perspective, there’ll be a stronger focus on creating collections similar to how the fashion world operates around events or seasons. 2015 will also see us collaborating with friends in our creative circle. This will involve creating special edition products, taking part in exhibitions and producing multi-media content related to the brand. On a broader level, our focus is on celebrating Africa’s cultural heritage and taking greater ownership of our creative evolution and design language.  

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