collective closets is the african australian label that has your back
"Our first collection draws heavily on our ferocious appetite for individuality, boldness, self-expression, and comfort."
Collective Closets is the new project by beautiful sisters Fatuma and Laurinda Ndenzako, who've launched the label with their first collection Kabila - a range of basic statement silhouettes featuring bold, earthy colours and prints. African born and Melbourne raised, the sisters draw inspiration from the city of Nairobi, where a new fashion renaissance is brewing.
We spoke to the inspiring ladies about sisterhood, bravery and celebrating what you've got.
i-D: How would you describe the melbourne fashion scene right now?
Fatuma: I think it's divided into two parts, one being a more casual 'reality TV' kind of look with ripped jeans - that's how the South side seem to do it. Then I feel like people in the North are pretty edgy and individual. There is such a community in places like Fitzroy. But I feel like reality TV and mainstream pop really have a hold on it, like the Kardashians and Taylor Swift are huge narratives in what young people are wearing because you always see them on blogs and Instagram. It's exciting for us because we can give something a little bit different.
You mentioned that there is a new fashion renaissance emerging in Nairobi, Africa...
Laurinda: Yeah! I go there every two to three years and on my last visit I noticed a change. There was such an eclectic mix of people getting inspired by their own country and using their own textiles. In Kenya it's a bit more conservative, women and men are looked down upon for stretching the boundaries, but now things are evolving and people are being brave. They don't necessarily want to be dictated to by their elders where generation after generation have said you can't wear certain things. There is a push in the younger generation.
Fatuma: Also in quite a few African countries there's been a real European influence and we haven't really been celebrating our own country and what we've got. I think that's definitely changing. A lot of bloggers that I've seen are using African fabric, beading, African-made with African inspiration, they're putting their own stamp on it.
Laurinda: Especially in Nigeria and Ghana; they are wearing stuff that you would never see in Melbourne. A lot of people there dress up a lot more, especially the men, but Australians are way more casual.
How is it working together as sisters?
Fatuma: I actually think it's been really, really good. It's been challenging because, as sisters there are no boundaries, but it has also been so rewarding. We're very similar people with similar tastes that we express very differently, so we have the same aim but access to two brains!
You are partners with the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse & Neglect (ANPPCAN). Would you suggest other businesses get involved in such networks?
Fatuma: I think it depends on the company. For us, we went to Nairobi and thought it would be socially irresponsible for us to do things and not give back. But I've been involved in volunteering since I was 18 so it's a big part of who we are. I think that if you want to make that an element of your business, it needs to be something that you want to do and you need to have the ability to sustain that relationship. Also, it is just an addition to what we're about at Collective Closets. I feel like shouting it out trivialises it. We want you to buy our clothes because you love them, and do something nice on the side.
What is something that constantly motivates and inspires you?
Laurinda: Having a mother that was such a hard working person. She achieved so much in her short life, that it would almost be an injustice to her for us not to utilise everything we have. Imagine sitting around and not taking full advantage of life. Having good foundations and motivations really helps to push us because you can do anything. She always encouraged us to do well and be happy. I did not think I could push myself to this extreme, it's pretty amazing.
What is beauty?
Laurinda: A good energy.
Text Erin McConchie