Designer Shamyra Moodley is turning heads on the runway

Accountant Shamyra Moodley was on maternity leave following the birth of her son when she came up with an idea that would propel her into the fashion world.

She started a blog, Laaniraani, where she shared photos of her personal style, with flashy glasses and bright fabrics. “It had fashion imagery, but clearly it was about my story, my journey to find out who I am,” Moodley said.

Born in East London, South Africa, along the Eastern Cape, she grew up watching her grandmother seamstress stitching fabrics together on a small, old Singer sewing machine. “I would always let her sew and say ‘No, I’ll cut and draw’ – and I keep doing it that way,” she told CNN, adding that “I don’t like the technical side of sewing, I like it as an art form. like free flow “.

Eventually Moodley quit his job as an accountant to explore fashion. The 40-year-old says that after a year of writing, Laaniraani became popular, getting her invitations to a series of fashion shows in South Africa.

Her formal introduction to the world of bespoke came two years ago, when she made a sackcloth skirt and bodice from an old breastfeeding bra and wore it to a fashion show.

Fashion designer Shamyra Moodley, pictured here wearing her first hand-woven skirt, showing “the tree of life”. Credit: Hilbury Media

Moodley says she initially wanted to give the bra along with some of her old maternity dresses, but changed her mind at the last minute. “I have fond memories of breastfeeding my baby,” she said. “So, I thought, let me turn it into a top.”

According to the self-taught designer, the outfit attracted the attention of British fashion critic Suzy Menkes, who introduced it to South African fashion entrepreneur Precious Moloi-Motsepe. Both women, she said, were instrumental in boosting her confidence in the fashion scene as she worked to put sustainability in the spotlight.

Create a collection

In 2020, Moodley was selected as one of six finalists for a “Fastrack” program organized by African Fashion International (AFI). Through the program, emerging designers such as Moodley are introduced to the fashion business and platforms are provided to showcase their work. Held annually, Fastrack has produced alumni such as contemporary designers Rich Mnisi and Jessica Ross.

As part of the program, Moodley was tasked with creating seven looks from existing fabrics.

Moodley grew up in a family where living sustainably by reusing objects was the norm. Credit: Photograph by Tegan Smith

He called one of the looks “Tied and Tested” having inherited around 150 ties from the men in his family, who had mostly been teachers. By deconstructing and reusing all the ties, she was able to create a multicolored flowing dress.

“We had to open each tie and we used the ties to create the fabric,” he said. “And I used free motion stitching to take the ties – something very structured, something very restrictive – and turn them into a free flowing dress.”

The designer, who describes herself as a “hybrid” of Irish, Indian and South African descent, has also relied on part of her Indian heritage for one of the looks from her Fastrack collection.

“I found one of my grandmother’s sarees, which is bright pink with a bit of a gold edge … I thought, let me make a bright pink dress that celebrated their femininity, their boldness, and then add some sari just to bring joy, ”Moodley said.

Watch the full episode: Contemporary South African designers are creating luxury looks made by Africans, for Africans

The Fastrack program gave her the chance to showcase her designs at various functions and fashion shows, including the last AFI Fashion Week in Johannesburg last October.

Fashion, but make it sustainable

All of Moodley’s dresses are handmade and created with donated or reusable fabrics. According to her, she grew up in a family where reuse of objects and sustainable living were part of everyday life.

From Moodley’s second collection, “Sugar in the blood”. Credit: Fayros Jaffer

“I said to myself, ‘You will prove to the world that you can write a fashion blog, and spend nothing, buy nothing and essentially use what you have.’ So, I followed a trendy diet, “he explained.

Moodley now designs and showcases handmade pieces for sale on his Instagram page. He tells CNN that setting up a factory to mass-produce his work is not in his current plans; instead, “everything is homemade in my space. I love having absolute control over who I sell my brand to and what I make,” she said, adding that her designs “come from a place of instinct.” .

Looking back on her journey from the accounting industry to fashion, Moodley stays true to her personal style when designing clothes to show off.

“When I design clothing, it also comes from that space of what’s in my mind. I want what I’m wearing to convey how I feel – which is happiness, which is joy, which is a sense of wonder,” she said. “I never want to grow up, and that’s the honest truth.”

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