Talented traditional dancer and mother of four, Verushka Pather recently took an exciting step in a new direction when she launched her unique, elegant and truly South African clothing line, Khanya Designs.
A skilled classical Indian dancer, Verushka’s exquisite shweshwe-inspired, ‘Indo-African’ clothing range is as bold and graceful as the designer herself.
Veruskha, her husband, well-known Ballito pediatrician Dr Kamendran Pather, and their four children have lived on the North Coast for the past 10 years.
It was when she travelled to India after school, Verushka says, that her passion for art, music, design and culture was fully ignited. She didn’t know then that this would be the catalyst towards her one day creating her own clothing range.
While in India, Verushka received a fellowship from the Indian government for her research and learning of the classical art of Bharata Natyam dance (a classical art of South India, which originated in the temples). “In India, the true ‘Verushka’ began to come alive. I learnt from everyone I met. There is something special about the hidden treasures there. Its silk, its gold, it’s array of spices and the oceans of knowledge of scriptures. It was an awakening of a whole new world for me.”
Returning to South Africa five years later as a young performer and qualified creative movement therapist, Verushka travelled the country performing her art of Bharata Natyam and working as a creative movement therapist. She married her husband (who she met in India) in 2002 and the couple now have four children.
Although she has always loved fashion and experimenting with different textures and fabrics, Verushka says her love for fashion evolved in India after being exposed to the finest silk, pure indigo and French linen and the best natural, organic fibres. Her inspiration to create her own range was sparked when she was pregnant in 2018, she says.
“I was walking the streets of central Durban trying to find comfortable and beautiful clothes and a hidden treasure. I discovered the cotton wax print and shweshwe and I loved it. I started buying fabrics and making cute shift dresses, then parallel pants and some other designs for my ever-growing tummy.”
When she realized the robust colours would merge well with the elegance of the raw silk, Verushka started making sari blouses in shweshwe for her silk saris. “I was awarded by our then minister of art and culture, Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, for my art contribution out of India and I wore a shweshwe sari to meet her. She was blown away and said that I should continue designing clothes that truly showcase ‘social cohesion’. So, I did. I believe that moment was the start of a whole new journey for me.”
Friends and family started looking forward to seeing Verushka’s newest design and then started asking her to tailor items for them.
“Seeing my clothes on other women gave me a great sense of joy and fulfillment. It was a creation born of Africa. It showcases powerful women, compassionate mothers and trend-setting young adults.”
Entirely locally manufactured, the Khanya range includes jackets, umbrella skirts, capri pants, tops, dresses (shift, ball gown, wrap, maxi), sari blouses and saris, kurthi tops a lovely range of baby doll dresses for girls and waistcoats for men and boys.
What appeals to people most, Veurshka says, is the fact that they are wearing a truly South African design. “When I created the range, I envisioned the average, everyday women looking and feeling her phenomenal in the bright, flamboyant colours and fabrics that really make a statement when you enter a room. The working professional, university student, local doctor, artist, home executive or store cashier can be dressed to feel their best, as I do.”
Asked where the name of her line, Khanya, come from, Verushka says it is the merging of her love of both her cultures. “Inkanyisi in IsiZulu means ‘shining light’ and khanyakumari is the Southern tip of India. Khanya Designs is about letting your soul shine to the world.”
Text: Leah Shone Photographs: Barry Bowditch Shoot location: The Grand Exotic