Few industries have truly embraced the saying “steal like an artist,” by author Austin Kleon as much as the fashion industry has. We have seen trends come and go only to return a decade later with a small twist and re-imagining of new designs inspired by old ideas. However, designers like Musa Radebe (27), based in Kwa-Thema, are on the verge of taking the industry by storm by creating work that is intrinsically and deeply rooted in South African culture – which is why it is no surprise that he would name his brand Isintu.
Growing up, Musa says he was exposed to a father who was always a dapper and neat fellow, a true gentleman. His father would buy him clothing that was exclusive, but Musa did not really start understanding fashion until his older brother became a dancer (I-bujwa). That is the only time he started having an interest in clothing, where clothes come from and the different brands that exist. After moving to the Vaal to pursue a law degree, he quickly started getting bored, and he could not ignore the yearning to do something more fun and creative. “I found two books in the library that completely changed my life. The first was, The Odd Future, and the second being, The Fashion Bible. After reading those books, I dropped out almost immediately and started my fashion line,” muses Musa.
However, like most entrepreneurs Musa experienced a few losses on his journey as a young businessman. “During my second year in business, I lost a very big deal. I lost my mind for a while, I felt worthless. I lost the deal because I could not produce a large number of garments.” Even after this depressive state in his career, Musa managed to get himself back up. He started entering competitions, attending workshops, and exposed himself to other small brands. He soon learnt that other brands also experienced the same kind of problems he had faced. “Being in those spaces helped a lot because we did a lot of problem solving. That’s when I started looking at Isintu not only as a clothing brand but also as a business,” says Musa.
When asked what makes Isintu different from other brands, the young designer expresses that Isintu is inspired by the ways and practices of the black South African people. “We are at a point where African customs seem taboo while Christianity and western influence is more prevalent. So, with Isintu we always aim to give a nostalgic experience, these garments need to make you feel South African,” he expressed proudly. The brand predominantly designs clothing, having started with jackets, they have now also added t-shirts, jewellery and bags to name a few. Currently the brand is focused on doing more research into the practices and history of the South African people, to add value in the future in spaces outside the fashion and design industry.
Musa Radebe has big plans for his future, these include a book or manual on the ways of South African people, a step by step guide on how to host Umcimbi, lessons on lobola, damages and other African practices.