Five Minutes with Project Runway South Africa’s Kentse Masilo

By Motlagae Konyana

Kaya 959 spends five minutes with Kentse Masilo a fashion designer and a finalist on Project Runway on Mzansi Magic. Project Runway South Africa premiered on Mzansi Magic in July 2018, presented by Ndalo Pictures, the new multimedia division of Ndalo Media, in association with 4th Street Wine. 

What made you get into Fashion Design?
Apart from being  raised by a mother that obsessively loved fashion. When I decided what I was going to do with my life, I wanted to be the greatest fashion designer  in my generation. Regardless of my family’s social status, I believe that there is something bigger than me waiting to happen and I could make it happen if I worked hard enough. The beauty of creating hand-crafted garments has always intrigued me and till today I can gladly say that I have dedicated my life to perfecting my craftsmanship which requires time and patience.

How important is it for a designer to have a fashion-related degree?
Having formal training is important and equips you with tools to become more efficient.  I believe that designer’s ability to succeed is not entirely dependent on a degree , however obtaining a qualification in fashion enables you to make informed key decisions and encourages you to lead. It’s important for designers to know that talent means nothing if you can not manage it.

How did people respond to your work when they first saw it? How about now, since you’ve been designing for several years?
At first the garments I created were being judged as “costumes” and “strange”, which I felt did not communicate the originality of my designs. On the other hand, I got feedback from creatives in other countries that were somewhat different to the feedback I got from locals. It encouraged me to provide a representation of what a Kentse Masilo design entails also with the aim  to  provide knowledge and understanding of futurism in fashion. The one thing I intend to take advantage of is our countries social development programmes and  platforms such as Project Runway to grow a sustainable business. People are now curious about my designs and I am happy that fashion isn’t just consumed but now more than ever it has become a serious topic amongst intellects. That’s progress.


Do you have any predictions as to where fashion and technology will be going next?
The expression of human individuality plays an important role in society and the fashion industry. Fashion has always taken an unexpected direction interpreting people’s values and desires, setting new trends. New technology  is at its prime and is becoming less tangible and more coded, which I think is visually dynamic. The digitisation of information and knowledge has changed how we view the world and most of our environmental problems and social crisis can be solved using technology. As President Barack Obama highlighted in a previous lecture,  the possibilities are endless and “the idea of having the world’s information and knowledge controlled by  a young individual in the village”, inspires and supports  my vision for taking Africa to space.

Artificial intelligence is growing at a rapid speed , which is why we need to be consistent and innovative.


Do you have any words of advice for other people who are interested in designing
Pursuing a career in fashion is not for the faint hearted , this is something I have been told many times in my career and has made me resilient. One needs to be disciplined and overly focused cause making it in the industry solely depends on your effort. No matter how hard the journey is, never give up and stay committed to your dream.

Having won the two challenges in the first two weeks of Project Runway South Africa, how did you feel?
Everything about me being in this competition is intentional and the need  to make it to the top 12 was deliberate.  I often lost out on opportunities because I was not clear about what I wanted. Being on the first Project Runway in South Africa and winning the first Episode blew my mind away and the only thing I could think about was how much this will mean to my family, the Second win caught me off guard, I’m still shook.


Do you have a favourite piece from any of your collections?
Well my favourite garment would be the  Nabula maxi dress from my A/W 18 collection.

What’s your biggest fashion mistake ever?
I think my fashion mistakes have helped shape the designer I am today and well the biggest mistake for me would be missing out on an opportunity to showcase at fashion week a few years ago but I don’t regret much. I’ve always had a positive response to setbacks

Why did you enter Project Runway South Africa and what are you hoping to achieve from the experience?
I entered Project Runway because I understood what this opportunity would mean for me or any other African designer. I wanted to put my skills to the test and finally change my life for the better. All those years of working late nights and constantly facing rejection this is the opportunity I believe I’ve been preparing for.

How do you determine the trends?
I determine trends by studying fashion every day, staying informed with current news and expanding my knowledge on social cultures, art, music, food and technology. Innovation is all around us and is crucial to building sustainable businesses , the ability to adapt to change also contributes to how I determine trends. As African artists and designers I believe that it is important to realise our worth and produce quality craftsmanship only Africans can provide. Once we can identify the diverse environments that produces African artists then can we find it easier to detach ourselves from what’s trending.




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