These Angolan sisters infuse Unity into their 'Collective Closets' label
Makers of clothing, accessories and homeware, Collective Closets is the brainchild of enterprising sisters Fatuma and Laurinda Ndenzako.
Born in Angola and currently based in Melbourne, Australia, where they were raised, the duo describe their label as being “a harmonious marriage between our two cultures”, something seen distinctly in the marriage of fabrics sourced from various parts of the continent and the Western shapes and silhouettes that inform their designs.
In particular, for their first collection - the Kabila Collection - merges these two sources of inspiration from both of their home continents with two of the fabrics from the Kabila collection found in Nairobi, and two more beautiful linens in Melbourne. While visiting local suburbs and markets in Nairobi they came across and fell in love with Kangas and with the Shuka inspired tartan, both heavily associated with Kenyan identity.
The name Kabila (meaning tribe in Swahili) came from the pairs’ visits to Kenya. Speaking about their affinity for the East African country the sisters said:
“Over the last several years we’ve been visiting Nairobi and fell in love with the country, it’s people the landscapes specifically we fell in love with the Masai culture, we wanted our first collection to have elements of the Masai tradition, hence the tartan fabric is a take on the Shuka blanket worn by Masai men. Most of the jewellery we used for this collection was handmade by Masai women. As sisters behind the label we have always had a strong sense of family and community so for us it was a no brainier and made so much sense to us to call the collection Kabila.
The word Kabila further extends into the cultures of community amongst many Africans. It’s not just about you and your immediate family for many of us. To live the lives we do and have the privileges, opportunities and blessings that have come our way it’s taken a “tribe” of people to get us to where we are.”
Aimed at the “who wants to be herself, who is subconsciously aware of the trends but is not dictated by them”, the collection draws heavily on the sisters ferocious appetite for individuality, boldness, self-expression, and comfort. Describing the collection in their own words, the sisters commented, “It was really important for us to create pieces that evoke something personal and create an intimacy between the garment and its wearer. We wanted to create an affordable, seasonally adaptive, stylish and comfortable collection that emphasises quality finishing.”
Aside from drawing inspiration for their clothing line from the continent, the Ndenzako sisters were intent on creating a brand with an ethical footprint and thus teamed up with Nairobi-based ANPPCAN (African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect) a Pan-African network that promotes child rights and child protection. Together with ANPPCAN, who have developed a number of programs including the Child Trafficking Programme, which aims at advocating and implementing intervention to prevent and protect children against trafficking, every garment purchased from the Kabila collection enables customers to donate school packs to the students of the Mathare Community Outreach School. “We hope through this campaign we can bring global awareness and support to the people of Mathare.”
The motivation behind this was simple, “Developing a label that was socially conscious and reflective of our social ethics was important to both of us,” the sisters stated. “We wanted to make sure that every aspect of our design and manufacturing was supportive and mutually beneficial for everyone involved. We also wanted to ensure we could give back to the community through our efforts. Naturally we wanted to form our own collective filled with beautiful and positive relationships. So we looked for partners that would share our vision and ethos.”