Laurinda and Fatuma Ndenzako are wonder women.
Inspiring Melbourne based sisters, in between working full time jobs, this creative pair have also spent the past 18 months working on their own label Collective Closets. Together they are becoming known for their use of fabrics and colours showing a clear influence of their African heritage, in products made both in Melbourne and Nairobi.
With a shared love of bold prints and a spirit of remaining absolutely independent, we fell in love with the energy of what Laurinda and Fatuma do and so earlier this year we began working with Collective Closets on a collaboration which we can not wait to release later this month. As a prelude to the big unveiling we took some time out to chat to them about their inspiration and creative process and take you behind the scenes on everything Collective Closet. (See the Radical Yes x Collective Closets Look Book here).
You have created a brand based on the spirit of collaboration and creating opportunities for your suppliers and makers. This is something we admire so much. Tell us about the early days of setting up your business, what your vision was and what you wanted to create?
It was always really important for us to create a partnership + introduce the world to the people that have contributed to Collective Closets. We set up “Our Collective”, a group of individuals we’ve teamed up with who are part of the Collective Closets family. We affectionately refer to them as our Kabila, our tribe in Swahili.
From the get-go our vision was always to introduce people to our story, to tell our story through our garments, our experiences, our inspirations and the people that have shaped us. The vision for the girl behind the label was a strong/fierce/ unapologetic confident woman that was also aware of her social responsibilities when it came to giving back to her community. Much of the labels vision has really been an extension of the women we are surrounded by and the women we strive to be.
We wanted to create clothes that we would want to wear. So much of our vision behind creating the label has been creating a harmonious marriage between our two cultures. We want our clothes to evoke something personal, an intimacy between the garment + its wearer. We want to make affordable, seasonally adaptive, stylish pieces.
How have you found your original ideas have changed and grown? Is the vision the same or have you found your mission changing as you have gone along the path?
LN: Our original ideas of what we envisioned for our label have not really steered to far away from our original blue print. We have definitely grown in so many ways not just from a business perspective but as individuals and as sisters.
Starting a label is so hard and requires a huge amount of determination. What have you found to be the most challenging moments and how have you gotten past them?
LN: Keeping a work life balance and managing our time and has been an ongoing challenge. We are both still working while building Collective Closets; oh and planning an interstate wedding. Our plates have been extremely full but we’re happy working on projects we love.
FN: Learning and managing the financial aspects of the business has allowed us to grow and develop some new skills. I failed accounting at uni, so there was a learning curve but we are getting better each season. We’ve learnt how important it is to stick to a budget and how to be savvy with our money.
For our collaboration we are presenting silhouettes in what has fast become the CC signature Masai warrior print. Tell us more about the story behind the Masai print and why it is important to what you do.
The business was almost founded on this Masai print. We found this fabric on a Family trip to Nairobi, we both looked at each other when we first saw this, we’d never seen this fabric represented quite so well. We both knew at the point we needed to start a business and introduce people to prints and fabrics they have never seen.
Red and blue checks have adorned the shoulders of the Masai tribes for generations, the beautiful colours of the Shuka allowing the Masai to blend effortlessly into their rich earth surrounds. Historically the many tribes of the Masai have marked their place amongst peoples and drawn identity from the unique configurations of colour and check found in Shuka. The fabric is locally produced just north of Kenya’s capital in the community of Ruiru, vibrant colours signifying bravery, strength, unity and energy are meticulously dyed onto hand woven fabrics. The women have been carefully hand-weaving fabrics for the people of the Masai since 1979.
We wanted a celebration of our African culture and are extremely passionate about sharing and supporting the local businesses of Nairobi and in giving back in our own way. We love working with the local women as there is so much we can learn from them. These women are fearless and extremely savvy. We are the happiest when we see people wearing these prints in a contemporary fashion whether they are aware of the fabrics history or not.
Tell us 3 things you always say YES to.
Surrounding ourselves with amazing creative’s; you never know what you’re going to learn from others journeys
Women’s empowerment: invest in women, allow them to achieve and witness the force for change that results
Social awareness: always open your eyes to the experience others are living around you, almost always there is something you can offer to better other lives
Good manners too!
What does being radical mean to you?
Pursuing dreams, empowerment, striving for your personal best, thinking outside the box, wearing your invisible crown + standing tall.
Photography by Breeana Dunbar.