Designer at work

Sun Goddess – Shaping African Narrative 

In this edition of Designer at work we highlight one of the many black fashion designers who have played a significant role in shaping the African fashion industry, from creating new styles and techniques, to challenging existing norms and pushing the boundaries of what is considered fashionable. 

Sun Goddess is a luxury heritage and lifestyle brand founded in 2001 by Vanya and Thando Mangaliso. The brand is known for translating South African traditional stories and imagery into fashion. Their latest collection was presented at South African Fashion Week. In a discussion, the founders discussed the latest collection, journey in the fashion business and upcoming projects.

Congratulations on your latest autumn/winter 2024 collection showcased at South African Fashion Week, what’s the story behind the collection?

Our latest collection draws inspiration from South Africa’s rich cultural heritage and natural environment. Through distinctive garments and silhouettes, we sought to convey the story of South Africa’s traditions and how cultural heritage and nature contribute to livelihoods passed down between generations. It is important to preserve these influences given their historical and cultural significance. 

Most importantly, we incorporated local influences and craftsmanship into the design. Storytelling through fashion honouring South African culture is at the core of our vision. The skilled work of local artisans can be seen throughout the collection in our use of bright colours, nuanced patterns, and distinctive materials.

When discussing craftsmanship, sustainability has become a prominent topic of conversation in the fashion industry of late. What’s your brand’s position in relation to sustainable fashion?

We are a sustainable fashion brand producing eco-friendly designs. However, building a sustainable fashion brand does not come easily, regardless of how established the company may be. It takes time, investment, and know-how to implement changes throughout operations to make a positive impact. We implemented changes to ensure using eco-conscious materials and partnering with carbon-offsetting companies. Facilities changes addressed even small details through sustainability. This included packaging and recycling initiatives. 

Our brand is dedicated to continuously improving environmental practices as we transition to greater sustainability. The changes require significant ongoing work but we remain committed to evolving our methods and example for better stewardship.

How has your journey in the fashion industry been, and how have you managed to stay relevant?

Over the past 22 years, our fashion brand has experienced significant growth despite initial challenges with limited resources and stereotypes regarding African fashion. While regulations were lacking, protecting creatives, we have successfully operated for over two decades. It makes us happy that local fashion brands now receive widespread acceptance compared to initial perceptions. Our longevity stems from authentic storytelling of South African culture, uniquely expertise no other entity possesses. This singular focus resonated globally, sustaining our brand’s appeal. Through ongoing research into clients’ needs in the changing market, our brand maintains relevance as a research-driven organisation prioritising active listening and understanding clients’ goals.

Current projects, collaborations, and what to expect from Sun Goddess in the future?

We’re really excited about partnering with Sun International to design their new uniforms. Collaborations like this allow us to reach a whole new audience and branch out from our usual style, which is awesome. It’ll be great coming up with a collection that’s refreshing and different. We’re also looking to expand our stores to other provinces soon. It’s still in the early planning stages but we’ll share more details when we get closer to launch. 

Most importantly though, we want to keep growing as a brand and spreading South African culture globally through fashion. Representing our heritage worldwide is really important to us


By Muzi Ndziba

Muzi Ndziba | Joburg-based freelance journalist | content creator | Istyleblaq founder

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