How was the Matsidiso brand born?
Where to begin!? The idea to start a shoe business has been a long time coming, and the idea kind of found me more than I found it. All of ‘this’ started three years ago when I met my now husband (South African, I am American) in South Korea.
When we decided to move to South Africa together I ended up helping his mother with the digital marketing in her ballet manufacturing company, as digital marketing has been my background for the past 7 years. However, I am not really one to sit still. I love always changing and challenging environments, and fortunately, due to the family-run dynamic, my mother-in-law gave me the freedom to dabble in design of the dancewear and learn about the manufacturing process holistically. I saw great potential in my mother-in-law’s business and their ability to make everyday shoes beyond the handmade dance shoes that they were already producing.
The idea to make street/fashion shoes wasn’t really a new one within the company. However, there was no one to run point on it and really give this potential venture the attention it deserved. So, there I was, totally naïve but incredibly passionate about design, and there sat this fantastic idea without any takers… Lucky me, I proposed that I would like to make this venture into a reality and thankfully my family put the trust and faith into me to boldly go. Now we are up and running, only three months old to date.
The one aspect of Matsidiso that I have always cared the most about and keeps me up at night with my relentless thoughts is how this business can actually create real, positive changes in the lives of our workers and expand that into our local community. What can we do, right now, that will create the biggest ripple throughout our local communities where people need it most.
How would you describe your style?
Colourful! If you have a peak into my closest, I have about every colour of the rainbow in there. I am loving the metallic (lately too. I also like different… Not for the sake of being different than everyone else, but because it fuels my creativity.
I love the fact that your brand has a strong social and environmental responsibility – please tell me more about this!
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Before I knew that I would end up in South Africa running a shoe company, the idea of owning a company where sustainability and social responsibility are weaved into the fabric of the business was a given. It has always been incredibly important to me.
I think there is so much more that can be done here in South Africa. I would go so far to say that HAS TO be done.
What better way to try and make a difference then through a business that allows me the opportunity to do so and where I am most connected with the people who need the support?
How has your work evolved over the years?
We have only been trading for a sweet three months since May 2017. I feel very positive and excited about what’s to come. So far, I’ve learned more about shoes and feet than anyone probably cares to know. This has evolved the creation of our Spring/Summer range which will include heels, mules and will be the start of men’s shoes. Understanding all of the components that go into shoe making is quite a thing!
When did you know you wanted to become a designer and what motivated you?
For creative minds, I don’t believe it’s an option to turn your creativity on or off, it’s in you and you can’t deny yourself of it. I never knew I would become a designer- let alone shoe designer. And I suppose I still don’t think of myself as a designer, per say.
I don’t have any technical training in design or shoe making to be honest. My experience has been hands on, learning holistically (about design) while working at the factory before starting Matsidiso.
It was my curiosity, willingness to learn, and natural love for design that came about organically. Work feels good! I am doing what I love and am in my natural habitat, and I feel grateful for that. If it wasn’t for the path that led me to South Africa, I think I would still be out there in the world doing something with a creative basis.
What kind of music are you listening to at the moment?
Ohhh good question! Currently I am feeling super hipster, because I cannot stop listening to an American singer by the name of BORNS. He’s pretty much the male equivalent of Lana Del Ray. Some others are Banks (Beggin’ for Thread in my favourite), I still love Temper Trap, Black Coffee, Afro Beats in general, anything that makes me feel like going on an adventure and makes me feel alive inside.
What criteria do you use when designing new shoes?
You know… I am still finding my feet here! My only criteria currently is:
- Are the shoes quality and do we provide more value than the customer is paying?
- Are they unique to the current market? (still learning here)
- Would I wear them?
- Do they make others happy?
I often test our shoes before putting them ‘out there’. I like to get our customers reactions to new shoes before producing. I have a marketing background and my big MUST is to test, test, test. Just because I love something doesn’t mean it’s amazing. Customers tell all, it’s important to listen to them.
How do you decide on colours and print for your shoes?
I am trying to create a fusion of ‘Africa’ and ‘modern’. I think it’s obvious that my love for colour has come out in the shoes especially the Xolani hand painted series.
However, I know that colour can be overwhelming on shoes. I’ve tried to find a way to create shoes that tell a story of the diversity in South Africa, but that are also wearable and not too overwhelming, nor too cliché. When I think of South Africa, I see beautiful vivid colours everywhere in my mind. My inspiration came from right where I am standing. I think this country is beautiful- flaws and all.
Which fashion influencer would you love to design a pair of shoes for?
Definitely Laduma! I know he is a designer, but quite a fashion influencer as well. To be honest I cannot wait to make men’s shoes, and I love his style. His colour palette is on point! You can tell that he wasn’t hindered by societal norms or others’ opinions. He has a natural talent, but he also didn’t try to play it safe. The result is original and beautiful clothing that looks more like art than clothing. If he liked a pair of shoes that I designed, I’d be on a cloud.
Wherever you go, there you are. No matter where you are at on this Earth, you cannot run away from yourself. If you are not happy right where you are standing because you haven’t resolved internal conflict inside, then what makes you think you’ll be happy anywhere else. Sometimes we convince ourselves of silly things like, ‘If I could buy a ticket to Bali and go on a yoga retreat for 10 days everything would be so much better’. That could be really amazing, but honestly, if you haven’t taken a deep look inside and tried to pinpoint the real cause of unhappiness/frustration/whatever, nothing is going to change you.
Have you ever done a design using the magenta colour?
Well yes, I believe that we have! One of the most current Xolani styles has magenta speckles on it, and we love it!
Visit www.matsidiso.com for more information.