Local Design: Aaliyah Makoni

WORDS Lindi Brownell Meiring


What started as a side project has led into a blossoming business for Johannesburg-based designer Aaliyah Makoni.

We caught up with her to find out more about starting her own label, choosing fabrics and upcoming collaborations.

You first started sewing during varsity holidays. When did you decide to turn this new passion into a business?

I had always loved creating and the idea of using my hands to make beautiful things, however I had never seriously considered turning it into a full time gig. It was when I was working in recruitment and not particularly loving my job that my sister suggested I explore turning my hobby and passion into a business. With the support of my family, I decided to make it a reality. 

What do you enjoy most about creating?

Oh my goodness! Where do I even begin? It is so exciting to see what starts as an idea in your head actually being realised – and to see it come to life through the work of your own hands is so rewarding. It brings a great deal of joy and satisfaction – the whole process is so thrilling. There are moments when I’m not really sure what I am going to make or I’m a little stumped for ideas and then the ideas just flow out of me naturally, which is also exhilarating because you never know what you’re going to get.

How do you go about choosing fabrics / designing your own fabrics?

Colourful fabrics are my thing! That’s where it all begins. I often have to see a fabric or a print to get inspiration for a design. I have always loved colourful African print fabrics and I wanted to have a line of fabrics that was our brand’s interpretation of African prints. We work with a super amazing graphic designer and this involves creating a lot of moodboards on Pinterest and going back and forth with ideas.

Anything new planned for the rest of the year?

Yes! We are collaborating with a shoe designer from Cape Town. We are extending our product range for the Aaliyah Makoni home line and, very soon, we will be launching a limited-edition line of bags for kids. 

Shop online at aaliyahmakoni.com and follow Aaliyah Makoni on Instagram.