School of Life Sciences

BSc Student Recognised as Leading Fashion Designer

A UKZN BSc student studying Biochemistry and Microbiology, Ms Nombuso Khanyile, who branched out into the world of fashion design, was recently selected among the top 50 Design Indaba Emerging Creatives for 2020… and one of the top nine in Durban.

Khanyile co-founded Afrikan Passion Designs with colleague, Mr Nisbert Kembo and together they design and make leather accessories using recycled materials, which they exhibited at the Design Indaba Conference at Cape Town’s Artscape Theatre.

Khanyile’s innovative and environmentally conscious approach resulted in her achieving first place in the Durban Youth Connect Innovative Business Competition at the 2019 Durban Business Fair. She and Kembo have been featured on the YOCO website and she also appeared in the VISI and ArtsThread online magazines.

Khanyile grew up near Ulundi, witnessing the toll taken by the HIV pandemic as well as the benefits of using nature to heal and prevent disease. This drew her to UKZN – which boasts a strong HIV and AIDS research programme – to study in a field aligned to her desire to be active in searching for a cure for the disease.

Research in her scientific field led her to explore principles of biodesign and the manipulation of micro-organisms to create environmentally conscious materials or fabrics as well as dyes which she uses in her fashion designs.

The designs of Khanyile and Kembo are inspired by the African/Zulu tradition of wearing homemade sandals, and aim to preserve and simultaneously revolutionise this tradition through modernising original African designs, such as iMbadada, to match modern tastes and styles.

‘The use of low-cost upcycled or recycled materials to create marketable products inspired self-reliance within me to use what I have and generate enough capital to start the business,’ said Khanyile.

Khanyile advised budding entrepreneurs to work hard, making sure they had a detailed plan and knowledge of the pros and cons of running a business.

She plans to continue with both her studies and business pursuits, doing more research into biodesign and potentially create an environmentally friendly fabric to replace leather, and contribute to HIV research.

Khanyile thanked UKZN InQubate for the business lessons they provided, Design Indaba for the mentorship and exposure they gave her, the Department of Arts and Culture and eThekwini Municipality’s Business Support Tourism and Markets Unit for business opportunities and media exposure, and her family and friends for their support.

Afrikan Passions Design is active on InstagramFacebook and Twitter, and can be contacted on

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied