Young Hartbeespoort fashion designer, Kentse Masilo, has taken the fashion world by storm with her very unique and somewhat futuristic designs.
The 26-year-old fashion designer won the Mzansi Magic’s Project Runway show in 2018, culminating in a flurry of exciting opportunities like a showing in Paris and a range of her own in a leading fashion chain store.
“It is a bit surreal and overwhelming at times but I have worked really hard at achieving my goals and it is my firm belief that I am powerful and I have the power to make things happen,” the bubbly young woman says in her brand-new showroom in Hartbeespoort. She oozes self-confidence combined with humbleness. Kentse believes in herself, her talent and her life vision.
“Never lose your vision. You have to stay focused or you won’t achieve what you had set out to do.”
Since the award and returning from Paris Fashion week in February, she has been running non-stop to get her clothes line for Edgars ready for an August launch, setting up a showroom and shop in Hartbeespoort, and designing and making unique creations for clients.
And it all started at Hartbeespoort High School with a young designer competition. “I was always creative and knew I would design something one day. I just didn’t know whether it was going to be interiors, cars or other stuff. When the young designer competition came around I was in Grade 9, I entered and to my surprise I won the formal category. I then knew what I wanted to do with my life.”
Kentse grew up in Bethanie, north of Brits, and was raised by her grandmother and father after her mother died when she was ten years old. “From a young age I knew that I had to do things for myself, No one else was going to. After school I attended the Tshwane University of Technology where I studied fashion design. When I graduated, I moved back to Bethanie and my family thought I was now a seamstress for the village. And I was. If I can’t dress the people in my village, how can I dress people in Paris? I made sure everyone in the village had a piece of me… the pastor’s wife, the headmaster’s wife… That was Coco Chanel’s attitude. She dressed the women around her. She is my absolute role model! She came from nothing and built herself a legacy. She was inspired by love and never felt the need to fit in. Since I became interested in fashion design I would tell anyone who would listen that I would one day go to Paris. My dad would laugh and say: There you go again, Kentse…”
When she heard about Project Runway SA, she knew it was time to take the leap. “I was ready. And when I won, I got to go to Paris and even show my clothes there! Now my dad tells me he believes everything I say because I make things happen,” she laughs.
Paris was everything she expected, and more. “The window displays are amazing and I knew when I open my shop I need windows that evoke emotion. Back in Hartbeespoort, I drove around and I found the perfect spot with the windows! People regularly ask me why Hartbeespoort and not Sandton. Why not Hartbeespoort? The town has an artistic flair and I think it has not been explored much by my generation. It has so much potential.”
She describes her clothes as clothing that will last, that will allow you to wear one garment over and over without others even noticing. “They are garments that can be adjusted, changed and incorporated into different outfits and styles.” Her designs have a somewhat futuristic approach.
One of her prizes for winning Project Runway SA was a luxury Lexus CT 200h compact hybrid, which she promptly sold to start her business. “One cannot drive around in a fancy car and not have premises from where to conduct your business. You have to give up some things to reach your goal and vision. I will have the car I want when the time is right. Right now I want a Vespa to drive to work and back, like people do in Paris. I want the freedom to express myself and live the way I want and not according to other people’s expectations.”
Kentse still makes all her designs but soon she will have to employ professional seamstresses. “I am a very good seamstress. I am a perfectionist. However, I will have to employ more people as the business grows and before the next Paris Fashion Week in which I plan to take part. My time is now. I want to grow my business, empower women and create job opportunities, teaching people that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.”