‘It brings me joy to share the weave of my land with the world’

After four years of sacrifice, Pather, the CEO and owner of Khanya Design, an Indo-African slow range fashion line, is taking her Proudly South African brand to the global stage - Mauritius

Verushka Pather, left, with Sanjhiana Appadoo, the brand ambassador for Khanya Designs in Mauritius. Picture: Supplied

Published Dec 6, 2023

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FOR internationally acclaimed Indian dancer Verushka Pather, the saying ‘life imitates art’ is certainly based on reality. Her journey from Bharatanatyam dance to fashion design is proof of her perseverance to succeed as a "double-nose pierced Indian woman".

After four years of sacrifice, Pather, the CEO and owner of Khanya Design, an Indo-African slow range fashion line, is taking her Proudly South African brand to the global stage - Mauritius. This means she will soon have her brand on the island.

"It is often difficult to get financial backing but opportunities are opening abroad. Being a new fashion design label, I am honoured and committed to forging ahead and building our brand and company to share our diverse unique cultures worldwide," said Pather.

Next week, she will host a launch event at the Coco de Mer Hotel in Ballito to celebrate the business partnership.

Khanya Designs

"The event will not merely be a fashion launch. It will be a testament to the power of storytelling through clothing, the harmonious amalgamation of heritage, and the forging of new narratives for the future. The designs will come alive to authentic music and dancing models."

From a dancer to a fashionista, Pather's story is as colourful as the fabrics she sources.

She was born in Malabar in Port Elizabeth and raised in a traditional Hindu community.

“I always wished to be a dance artist and I have been blessed to be able to fulfil that desire.

“The arts have always been my calling in life. Dance, music, art, and all that was creative inspired me.”

After she matriculated in 1994 from Malabar High School, Pather took a gap year and worked as a bank teller, saving her money to travel to India. While there, she received a fellowship from the Indian government to learn Bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance form.

Behind the scenes, her adoration for the vibrancy of India - the culture, the spices and the intricately woven fabrics in deep shades - ignited her zest for fashion.

“My now late Aunt, Vinnie Chadwick, from Victoria in Canada, was also an influence in my life. During her regular visits to South Africa, she brought beautiful clothes, shawls, fabrics and weaves that seemed to be from an unknown land.

“Then while I was a student in India, she travelled there and made it her second home. My aunt along with her best friends - Bamini, Prabha and Gowri - made numerous trips, outsourcing fabrics, meeting weavers, and having a fabulous time. As a young impressionable student, I was amazed by the powerhouses before me.

A Khanya Design.

“Little did I know I had learnt the tricks of the trade. What I heard about indigo fabrics, 100% organic fibres, pure silk, and traditional weaves became imprinted in my mind.”

Fast forward to 2019, Pather established the 100% woman-owned and managed Khanya Designs.

“Before I launched Khanya Designs, one could not find 100% cotton in vibrant colours and robust designs. Even 10 years ago, the average individual worked and saved to purchase a branded item. Why is this so, when we can create unique clothes with our South African brand that shares with the world a part of Africa; our story of our people and land?

“The name Khanya was inspired by my love and time in India and the boons of my birthland of Africa. Khanyakumari is the southern tip of India and inkhanisya is ‘shining light’ in isiZulu. The merging of the two gave birth to Khanya Designs – ‘Let your soul shine’.

“I launched unique, elegant and high quality Indo-African inspired garments and introduced captivating and colourful Shweshwe fabrics fused with textures of raw silks and cottons from India and Africa. In the process, not only do we support local artisans, creating employment opportunities, but we are sensitive to sustainable and eco-friendly fashion."

But there have been hurdles.

“People get misled when they see a traditional, double-pierced nose Indian woman. What would she know about African fabrics and traditions? It's not so much about what I know or don't know, but what resonates in my heart.

"I may be Indian, but I am an Indian African, true to my birth land; loving, respecting and imbibing the traditions of our land into our homes, lives and clothes. So this culture and fabric, Shweshwe, has also weaved itself into my life. It brings me joy to share the weave of my land with the world, and now I look forward to the intersection of two rich and diverse cultures - South Africa and Mauritius."

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2023