Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Anything that comes and goes, rises and sets, is not what I love – Rumi

Khulekani Msweli is a designer and entrepreneur visiting the Upper Valley from the Kingdom of Swaziland on a fellowship to Dartmouth College. He was selected to participate in the 2014 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and will be visiting Washington DC later this year to be adressed in a private ceremony by President Obama. I asked Mr. Msweli, after meeting him at Revolution last week, to share some thoughts on fashion, design, and community...


A design community, to me, means being surrounded by like minded people within the design industry, who are not only there as designers doing their own thing, but are collaborative, incubators of innovation, and are there to grow with me, hold my back if I'm falling and celebrate our victories. I'm one of those people that did not grow up dreaming of becoming a designer, I was more into fine art and I had taken that as a subject, in school. The tipping point came during my last years of high school when I had to start thinking about my career choice, naturally I had thought Fine Art is my direction, which then posed many questions to my parents as they asked me to research more in to it and see if it offers much in terms of a sustainable living. That halted me in my career steps but then led me into  fashion, as I had been accustomed to my family habits of custom made tailored clothes, thus fascinated by it all. I then thought I can combine my art skills with the business of fashion. With more research, I actually realized that I can study fashion design and later on become self employed, running my own company, and that was very appealing to me. My parents were very supportive of the career choice and have continued to be my greatest fans, so great in fact my father is a share holder in the company that I eventually started.

That then led me to studying Fashion Design with Technology at Manchester Metropolitan University in England. My time in England, especially interning at the Marios Schwab studio, in London, taught me a lot about the industry, sharpened my focus and positioned me to be able to take my acquired skills back to my home country, the Kingdom of Swaziland, and start my own business. The journey has not been easy but being awarded with various accolades has helped in soothing some of the pain and taking a deep breathe towards the following day. I'm currently the founder and co-director of JEREMPAUL, which was established in 2010 as a fashion brand but has evolved into a lifestyle brand, as we are now not only producing and selling clothing but also home ware, food and art. My role is to create the annual collections across the divisions of fashion and home ware, creatively direct the vision of the company and make sure that innovation and high quality remain intact. Due to the nature of how all JEREMPAUL products are designed and produced, following ethical principles, having them locally handmade, and utilizing the best possible materials, has made our products to fall within the premium category.

Doing all that would not be possible without an amazing team and our patrons. At JEREMPAUL I pride myself in having a really mind boggling team, that goes from young to really old. All the people that I work with are very special because they have specialist skills in old age skills of fabric dying, beading, embroidery, weaving, tailoring, knitting and wood carving. We have become a family that is bound by excellence in what we do, pushing the limits of creativity, yet doing what we all really enjoy. It is trying at times, as I constantly have to seek markets that would be buying into our products, which can be very challenging, yet I push myself to the brink because a lot of families depend on JEREMPAUL remaining in business. So it's never about me but about us and how we can continue to make JEREMPAUL to be amongst the world's most sought after design brands with ethical principles. We believe that we create products that are not fast and disposable but ones that are cherished and passed onto the next generation. 

We, the designers, hold the keys to the creation of a better future, we are the people that start trends, bring ideas to life...

We cannot create another Earth, therefore we have to be very responsible about how we conduct our lives, having checks and balances on whether we are having a positive or negative impact on the planet. That might sound like the old record playing over an over again but unfortunately it has not played long enough because if it had there would have been drastic changes by now. The design industry, especially fashion, has a huge role to play in designing products that are not as disposable as the fast fashion industry has become. Yes, we all have to make a good profit, but when does it become enough and we actually satisfy the needs of customers who are ill informed about the cost of finding a 'bargain' and being able to choose new collections every second month? The future is very frightening from that point of view because the customer and the fashion conglomerates have become more greedy and unsatisfied. On the positive side, the future will be having green shoots of resilience through the design companies that are bringing back the focus to quality over quantity, ethical business and sustainability for all. It is the toughest route to take but I believe it's one that requires all of us designers, throughout the various spectrum of design, to be innovative about how we make these principles mainstream. We, the designers, hold the keys to the creation of a better future, we are the people that start trends, bring ideas to life, so lets not make excuse and point fingers but just create a better future.

JEREMPAUL is a high end fashion and design brand directed by a Swazi father and son, Paul Msweli & Khulekani Msweli, since its establishment in 2010. It is focused on innovative high quality craftsmanship and driven by the love of contemporary art, resulting in avant-garde fashion and furniture. Designer Khulekani Msweli designs objects that revive artisan's skills at the same time that they are challenged, to entice young generations to take part and pride in the value and meaning of craftwork. A JEREMPAUL piece is passed on from one generation to another, telling our story and preserving our heritage.  


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