dark angel

Dark Angel - A Gem in the Middle of the Bundu

Rural areas provide a fresh canvas inwhich beautiful paintings can be etched without the adulteration that comes with the bright lights of the city. This is the environment that feeds into fashion designer and singer Zanele Ndlovu (25)’s muse.

Zanele has lived in various places but finds inspiration from the sprawling hills and chirping birds of Timbavati in Mpumalanga. “I developed my love for designing at a very young age. That was before I even knew what it was. I was young when I started off designing clothes for my friends’ dolls.” she remembers.
Showing that an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree Zanele adds, “My mom is the reason I realised my talent, thus I learned all I know from her. She was designing and making dresses years before I was born”. Shadowing her mother had its perks. “I grew up learning and mastering my art through her mentoring, which has groomed me to this point.”
After completing her matric, though talented she struggled with finding her feet. “In 2011 I enrolled at Vaal University of Technology to upgrade my skill, however my ambition to pursue fashion academically didn’t last since I had to drop out due to the difficulties I had to face in a place far from home” Zanele reveals.“Today I find inspiration from simple things to do what I love the most. I am inspired by seeing the end product of what I envisaged, which is what keeps me going. Being a creator is the most fulfilling occupation I could indulge in, since for that moment I am a god – a creator and can marvel at the beauty of my work.” Zanele is a girly-girl with two sisters and a brother who all have ‘real’ jobs. What complicates her aspirations is that she’s also a talented singer with a free spirit. When she lived in Pretoria with friends she used to design clothes and handbags while also redesigning outfits they already had. In her daily life she is surrounded by an equally talented nucleus of friends who are either poets, musicians, writers or fashion enthusiasts. “During my year at VUT I met Buhle, a dear friend who is a developing designer I hold thumbs for in the SA fashion industry. She is currently doing her second year. I was impressed with her drive to obtain her degree whatever the cost, her neat work and the perfection she puts in each garment she makes” Zanele who also makes home accessories such as cushions, curtains and bed spreads relates.
For somebody who found academia too restricting Zanele’s thumbsuck designs do not give away the secret. She admits that her style is largely informed by the fashion she sees every day, which influences her to recreate and redefine existing fashion to her own taste.
Her fashion definition is creating beauty and allowing consumers of her work to feel and find their own identity in them. “My style can be defined in many terms even though I don’t want to put it in a box. It has been defined as traditional African, Afro- chic, Afro-centric. The aesthetic of such creations is my maintenance of a unique identity and definition of my style. Yet again I am able to expand my abilities to suit different occasions and different styles.”
This bohemian guitarist has had her fair share of press but it’s difficult when one is in Mpumalanga which has no Fashion Week focus. “We have not yet reached a stage whereby we can boast seasonal collections staged in the big cities, either simultaneously or successively. For us to reach that stage whereby we can have a Summer, Winter, Spring and Autumn Collections staged in both Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Bloemfontein and Nelspruit talent should be identified even in our rural areas, not only in Gauteng. This can help in the growth of our fashion industry with more players participating”
Zanele’s label is called Dark Angel Designs and while the name has a gothic ring to it her designs are colourful and gay. “I hope that in the next few years my fashion label will be embraced by a bigger market than I currently have. I would love to have my own fashion house where I’m able to dream up designs , create them and have them available to fashion consumers”, she concludes.

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