Meet Shilla (pictured top left)and Tebogo (pictured top right), the textile artisans who are always creating something new and exciting in the treasure trove of cloth that is Amatuli’s sewing department. With years of experience and a love for African textiles, they have mastered the art of working with bold designs and rich, vibrant colours creating unique pieces, prototyping new products, and perfecting them until they are just right.
Shilla Zana Ajieh: A designer with an aesthetic sense
Born in Zimbabwe, Shilla graduated from design school and came to South Africa in 2007. She began working at a furniture store where she did most of the re-upholstery work. She started working at Amatuli in 2011 and has since then been creating an assortment of unique interior design pieces.
“My aunt was a dressmaker. She made the most beautiful dresses for brides. I would always watch her and take inspiration from how she could create something so beautiful with her own two hands. When my aunt passed away, I inherited her sewing machine. Since then,I’ve been experimenting with textures and textiles and creating beautiful designs with my own two hands.”
African textiles are exploding across the globe and slowly transcending from the fashion industry into other areas of lifestyle space; namely homeware and interior design.
Tebogo Lehlabi: A designer without boundaries
Product designer and crafter Tebogo Lehlabi grew up in Johannesburg and studied fashion design at the University of Johannesburg (then called Wits Tech). After graduating in 2007,she taught at a community college for two years and went on to help with skills transfer programs in the community. She joined Amatuli in February 2018 and has since then been conceptualising new products and incorporating handcrafting into all her designs. For her, working at Amatuli gives her the opportunity to create a variety of different decorative pieces that are original, unique and handmade.
Weaving history with the present
“I have a love for exploring and finding interesting and one-of-a-kind textiles and vintage cloth. One of the very many benefits of working at Amatuli is that rare and special finds from all over Africa make their way here. I then have the pleasure to pick and choose from an assortment of one of a kind vintage fabric and create something unique.
I also spend some time helping out on the sales floor. I enjoy meeting our clients and sharing stories and histories of our textile pieces.”
From an early age
“As a child, I was extremely picky about what I wore. One particular memory stands out, my Spiderman suit, which I wore till the age of 9 even though it was labelled 5-6. When my aunt who I grew up with eventually threw it away, I was distraught,and probably still have some emotional scarring to this day. The point is, I always knew what I liked. I’ve always been fascinated with textiles and beautiful vintage cloth. I think my love of design and sense of style comes from my parents – they loved fashion.”