Well to answer the question in a literal manner, Barbara Mckenzie is the brainchild of Kendi Sapepa. A young partly Mthatha partly Margate raised Joburg resident and fashion designer. However the point of this post is not answer the question literally but rather laterally in this kick-ass interview below. Before we start, I’d like to paint a vivid picture for you to store in your mind while you read the interview: There was infusion tea, cake, scintillating conversation and the upper-eschelonesque ambience of Life Grande Cafe, Hyde Park (Whom I’d like to give a shout out for great service and tea and cake!) – a combination only surpassed by Kendi’s designs. With that picture in mind, see the Q&A below 🙂
N: Tell me a little bit about your brand.
K: It’s a brand that caters for women with quite a bit of vintage inspiration but with a modern twist to it. It’s very feminine and it’s for the fashion forward woman who doesn’t want to work too hard to look good. My spring collection is no new invention with it’s bright colours and feminine cuts but sometimes you just have to design something people can really wear. This crop-top I’m wearing is part of the collect. A bit of a random addition with a floral print but I just fell in love with the fabric.
N: And what’s with the vintage inspiration? Is there a particular person or event in your life that inspires your love for vintage?
K: Yah. My late mother. The name Barbara is actually her name and Mckenzie is a play on my name. Before she had kids she was very stylish and her photographs showed that. But I guess after you have kids they become the main priority especially for such a selfless woman as my mother. This is brand is a tribute to her.
N: So when did you start the brand?
K: I started making clothes for fun when I was studying at TUKS in my second year. My aunt randomly bought me a sewing machine and I had a friend who’s mom worked in New Guinea so they would often bring fabric. That didn’t last very long because I was doing it as a hobby. The plan was never to make a business out of it. I officially started the brand in 2013.
N: But how did you learn to sew?
K: I’m self taught, funny enough. In grade 10 I had a week long work experience where I shadowed a fashion designer and I watched how she did it. I realised then that its a technical skill that can be learned.
N: So how does the production side work? How big is the volume you produce?
K: I produce mostly by order. But for now I have a few clients that order regularly and a lot that contact me through the site or from referrals. There’s also social media where a few orders trickle in. I am working towards making my collections the greater part of my business as opposed to orders.
N: Tell me about running a business while working a full-time job. You are working right?
K: It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting but because I love it so much I’m not terribly bothered by it. I do have plans of making it a permanent career and opening a store in the next three to five years. As it stands now I work alone but I have found a seamstress who will lessen the load pretty soon.
Look out for a look post featuring one of Barbara Mckenzie’s summer crops.
Photography by Mothusi Molote. This is the first of many of our collaborations and I love what he has done. x