29-year-old Robyn Aghulhas, a go-getter from Goodwood, Cape Town birthed the innovation-driven, high fashion streetwear brand inspired by Japanese culture in 2019, in perfect time to earn her a seat at the table as one of the designers of the A-Grade capsule collection. While on the Chivas Venture programme, she has her eye on the future and no time to look back.
Chivas x Robyn Agulhas
Tell us about Robyn and where her love for fashion began
I like things that are quirky and different. I’m very inspired by art and music and I love collecting illustrations from artists. I have a slight obsession with rings, so I collect those too. My love for fashion started at a young age watching MTV, being inspired by Missy Elliot and Pharrell Williams but the love really started with sneakers, because sneakers and fashion go hand-in-hand.
How do you view South African fashion culture?
The South African fashion culture is definitely adopting that Japanese inspiration and making it its own. Fashion is every individual’s experience and opinion, and we need to respect that. I love seeing people get creative with their outfits, showing up and wearing what they love, it’s amazing to see.
What sets your garments apart from the rest?
My grandmother always taught me to pay attention to detail. She loved fashion and getting dressed up but she would always complain about quality, comparing what was made back in the day to what is being made now. Maintaining the importance of quality and attention to detail will set SinChui apart from the rest.
Who or what was your biggest support system when developing SinChui?
Firstly, it was me because I had to believe in my vision. I had to see my vision first before anyone else could. I had amazing support from family and friends. SinChui was also created in my third year, so I had support from lecturers and friends in fashion.
What did your parents first make of your dreams?
My parents always thought my dreams were very different and “out there” compared to what they had in mind for me. They suggested I study business and go work for a corporate company and I was like “Nope! Not for me” and I went in a different direction, following my passion. I think once I graduated from fashion school, they saw the start of my journey and once I was chosen for Chivas Venture, they were like “This is what Robyn was destined to do so let her be”.
How did you overcome personal challenges to get to where you are?
I always tried to keep a positive mindset, be in the moment and just be grateful for where I’m currently at, knowing that things will happen, and things will come if I just trust the process. Also, to never give up and just keep moving forward.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
I’m most proud of all I’ve achieved so far. I think from being selected as a Design Indaba Emerging Creative to this incredible opportunity with Chivas Venture, I’m just so grateful for my journey and I’m excited about what the future holds.
What was your biggest take-out from the workshop experience in Cape Town?
What I took away from Zaid and the other mentors is hard work hard and determination to make things possible. There are a lot but the day we spent with David Tlale was the most amazing. They’re all just super dope and inspiring individuals.
How did you find working with fashion industry creatives?
Working with well-known fashion industry creatives helped me learn. I learned their processes and got to connect with people I really look up to. I got to see how they love what they do and even though they are faced with tough challenges along the way, that drive and motivation to keep going was really inspiring.
What does the A-Grade Capsule Collection mean to you?
This is the first time I get to collaborate with talented individuals that share this passion to create. We all have this vision and we’re excited to see it come to life. The collection is created based on a story that is relatable to everyone, young and old, with a lot of love, locally in South Africa.
What’s next after the A Grade Collection?
I want to see my brand, SinChui, go live. Hosting pop-ups between Joburg and Cape Town, having an online store and working each day to build my dreams to what they are destined to be. I would also love to collaborate with more designers.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I’m walking into my SinChui studio that has in-house manufacturing and a motivated team with their own dreams and passions to follow. I would also love to create a space in communities to push creativity among the youth. One thing about South Africa, we have really amazing and talented individuals that we need to support and nurture. I would also love to collaborate with designers from around Africa and the world – especially Japan.
Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t ever feel like you’re wasting time trying different things. The process you will be going through will shape you into the person you’ll become. Trust your intuition. Let it guide you to finding your purpose in life. Enjoy the journey.
There’s an old Japanese quote that goes “Vision without action is a daydream”. It is clear that Robyn Agulhas is in motion and there’s very little that can stop her in the pursuit of her quirky, audacious dreams.
Watch Robyn talk through her journey: