With a spotlight on sustainable fashion, this South African accountant-turned-designer is turning heads on the runway – CNN

Accountant Shamyra Moodley was on maternity leave after the birth of her son when she came up with an idea that would push her into the world of fashion.

She started a blog, Laaniraani, where she shared photos of her personal style, featuring flashy eyewear and vibrant fabrics. “It had fashion pictures, but clearly was about my story, my journey into finding out who I am,” Moodley said.

Born in East London, South Africa, along the Eastern Cape, she grew up watching her seamstress grandmother piece together fabrics on a little, old Singer sewing machine. “I’d always let her do the sewing and I’d be like ‘No, I’ll cut and design’ — and I still do it that way,” she told CNN, adding that “I don’t like the technical side of sewing, I like it as an art form. I like to free flow.”

Moodley eventually left her accounting job to explore fashion. The 40-year-old says after a year of writing, Laaniraani became popular, scoring her invites to a host of fashion shows in South Africa.

Her formal introduction to the world of custom-made garments came two years ago when she crafted a skirt out of sackcloth and a bodice from an old breastfeeding bra — and wore it to a fashion show.

Designer Shamyra Moodley, pictured here wearing her first-ever handwoven skirt, displaying “the tree of life.” Credit: Hilbury Media

Moodley says she initially wanted to give away the bra alongside some of her old maternity clothes, but changed her mind at the last minute. “I have such fond memories of breastfeeding my son,” she said. “So, I thought, let me turn that into a top.”

According to the self-taught designer, the outfit got the attention of British fashion critic Suzy Menkes, who introduced her to South African fashion entrepreneur Precious Moloi-Motsepe. Both women, she said, were instrumental in boosting her confidence in the fashion scene as she worked to put sustainability in the spotlight.

Creating a collection

In 2020, Moodley was selected as one of six finalists for a “Fastrack” program organized by African Fashion International (AFI). Through the program, emerging designers like Moodley are introduced into the business of fashion and given platforms to showcase their work. Organized annually, Fastrack has produced alumni like contemporary designers Rich Mnisi and Jessica Ross.

As part of the program, Moodley was tasked with creating seven looks from existing fabrics.

Moodley grew up in a household where living sustainably by reusing items was the norm. Credit: Tegan Smith Photography

She called one of the looks “Tied and Tested” having inherited about 150 neckties from the men in her family, who had been mostly teachers. By deconstructing and reusing all the ties, she was able to create a multi-colored flowing dress.

“We had to open up each tie, and we used the ties to create fabric,” she said. “And I kind of used free motion stitching to take ties …….


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