Meet Laurinda Ndenzako, designer and co-founder of Collective Closets, a conscious Melbourne-based fashion label. Taking a wander through Laurinda’s Hoppers Crossing abode, we knew we had met a kindred spirit. Seamlessly blending vintage pieces with new, we adore the colourful and eclectic decor that celebrates her African heritage and travels. AND both our brands are super passionate about celebrating the work of skilled artisans and storytelling through design.
Read on to learn all about the story behind Collective Closets and to take a peep inside Laurinda’s srsly gorgeous abode.
So tell us, how was Collective Closets born? Describe the exact moment that led you here.
Collective Closets was born on my whirlwind first-time trip to Nairobi, Kenya to meet my now-husband's family. Fatuma (my sis!) and I had been dabbling in many creative projects before Collective Closets was born. We knew that we wanted to start something of our own – we just didn't quite know what that would be like, or what it would be.
By the time I landed in Nairobi and visited the markets that were so vibrant and filled with so many beautiful, rich textiles I knew that whatever we were going to build, Fatuma and I had to use the amazing textiles that I saw at the markets. We knew we wanted to use fabrics that weren’t just everyday fabrics but had a foundation that translated back to our upbringing and heritage.
To this day I still remember the phone call I made to Fatuma. I called her in excitement. I absolutely fell in love with the place. When I saw fabrics in the markets of Nairobi, it was like a lightbulb moment. It reminded me of stories our mum had told us about growing up in Africa. I especially gravitated towards the shúkà, the cloth of the Maasai.
So, that’s where the concept of Collective Closets came from – it’s a brand that celebrates our dual heritage, of being from Australia with African roots. We wanted to really lean into our upbringing in Melbourne, Australia, and give the clothes a modern, fashion-forward element that speaks to styles worn here while celebrating the beautiful things that come out of Africa.
Your brand is passionate about celebrating the work of African artisans and making their work known in the Aus fashion industry (our products are also made by artisans!). Can you tell us more about the artisanal journey of your designs?
We wanted to uplift local artisans, be part of the conversation and support the people who create our incredible shuka fabric and the people who make our beautiful threads. It's an integral part of our brand and sharing these stories means that our customers and audience understand the ethos of our brand but also share light to the hands that help us create our garments. It’s important for us to tell these stories, to shine a light on these artisans.
Your designs/ collections are inspired by the rich history and culture of Africa. What are you trying to tell us through your designs and what do you love most about your amazing culture?
Each collection we create is a celebration of our African heritage, paying homage to our roots and the inspiration behind all that we do. The story behind our fabrics is the essence behind our label – we travel at least once a year to Nairobi, Kenya to decide upon our fabrics for our upcoming collections. We work closely with our spinning factory in Nairobi which provides us with our shuka, the traditional cloth of the Maasai tribe, a consistent feature in every collection we produce.
Our label is known for celebrating our dual cultures as African/Australian women. The essence of what we create is about showcasing and sharing the beautiful stories behind the fabrics and the talented team of creators that help bring our designs to life.
This year was the first year that our collections were partially made in Nairobi, Kenya – it has truly been a proud moment for us as a team. In December 2022, I spent two months connecting with the community in Nairobi, exploring new options in sustainable manufacturing. We wanted to uplift local artisans, be part of the conversation and support the people who create our incredible shuka fabric.
What advice do you have for budding designers out there?
Keep going! Even when you feel like giving up – just keep pushing through! It will all pay off…
Your mother was a seamstress… she would be so proud of you both! If you could pinpoint your favourite moment in business together so far, what would it be?
There have been so many phenomenal moments that we are proud of – the last 7 years have been so surreal. I am most proud of what we have been able to cultivate – a brand built on values and integrity both online and offline! We are extremely passionate about telling stories and cultivating community! The entire backbone of what Collective Closets was built on. We are proud of the work that we have done in spotlighting talented women – especially black women and women of colour. In a world that is forever telling us that we are not enough, we are proud to be a brand that stands for so much! A brand that is about representing women who look like us and celebrating their achievements.
What do you find most challenging about being a business owner?
It’s been a challenging experience trying to stay ‘positive’, and having a can-do/problem-solving outlook when there is so much uncertainty in this crazy financial crisis the world is in. With so much changing daily, it’s been hard to mentally process what’s going on – especially in the year...It’s been difficult at times to process the changes and not get stuck in a ‘woe is us’ headspace.
We, like so many small businesses globally, have felt the effects of trying to run a small business and stay afloat during such challenging times.
Also being a mum and a business owner and trying to find a work-life balance can also be really challenging – wearing so many hats within the business, then trying to find time for myself and my family can be hard. Running a small business sometimes means that when we have big projects and collaborations – it may mean that I have to work after hours on Saturday or Sunday morning/night. I am trying to get better by switching off both mentally and physically – this continues to be a work in progress.
Featured: Emma Textured Cushion
How would you describe your taste in interiors and what has influenced this?
This is such a hard one! I’m not sure if there's a name for my taste in interiors – over the years my taste has evolved and become a little more refined, but one thing that has never waivered is my philosophy for buying pieces that speak to my heart and personality – things that I love!
I’m not one that is driven by trends – I buy what I like! The biggest things that have influenced my taste in interiors are:
- Buying pieces that celebrate my heritage – mostly through my travels to Kenya. I try my best to bring back artwork or other small artefacts that not only remind me of my travels but also celebrate my heritage.
- I love bringing to life secondhand/pre-loved pieces of furniture. I can spend hours looking through op shops trying to find well-made pieces that are going to last another 100 years.
- I love mixing and matching new with vintage!
Three Sage x Clare items on your wish list right now… GO!
This is a hard one! As I’m in lorrrrvvvvve with so many pretty things from the Goldie collection. If I had to narrow it down it would have to be the following:
- Redondo Robe in turmeric – Nothing beats lounging in a good plush robe!
- Santa Monica quilt cover set – To me, this is the perfect starting point for building a beautiful story with your linen. I would add some bold pops of colour with your pillows and sheets.
- Redondo bath mat and bath sheets are also…*chef’s kiss*
Featured: Una Mini Bowl - Confetti.
What makes you happy outside of work? Hit us with some fun facts about yourself.
Oh there are so many things that bring me joy! I’m definitely someone that does her best to enjoy life's little pleasures and I do my best to live with intention and purpose. My family brings me an immense amount of joy – I am truly blessed to have a supportive partner who encourages me and allows me to be my crazy self. Plus a 4-year-old son who brings out the silly child-like part of my personality.
I love trashy television shows – in fact the trashier the better! Bring on anything that lets me tune out to the realities of life and you have me hook line and sinker!
I love spending time on my own! The older I have become the more alone time I crave – solo walks, lunches and trips thrifting through op shops feed my soul.
Oh and lastly music, I love cranking up the tunes and belting out the solo karaoke. Music feeds my soul – it’s literally the cure to everything!
To find out more head to the Collective Closets website or follow along on their Instagram or Facebook.
With a whole lotta love xx