Malawian designer is inspired by images of Earth from space

Updated 19th March 2021
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Malawian designer is inspired by images of Earth from space
Written by Rochelle Beighton, CNN
Innovative designers often want their clothes to look out of the ordinary, but a designer from Malawi wants her clothes to be out of this world.
When Linda Khumbanyiwa started her clothing line last year, she launched it with a collection called "Earth from Space." The idea was to use colors like those seen in images of our planet taken from afar.
The former fashion model says it was inspired by her longstanding fascination with the cosmos. "I had been watching a lot of films and documentaries about space at the time ... 'Hidden Figures,' 'Apollo 11,' 'Gravity,' and 'Interstellar' to name a few," explains Khumbanyiwa, 34.
"The stories were always super compelling and inspiring but what moved me the most were the shots of what the Earth looked like from space," she adds. "I was mesmerized by its beauty ... the blue and yellow hues."
Before launching Lynne Kayenne Studio, Khumbanyiwa worked as a model, stylist and blogger. She wanted to use her knowledge of the fashion industry to create a brand that would showcase the culture and heritage of her home country.
"I believe it's our duty and responsibility as creatives, especially in Malawi, where the narrative is usually only of poverty," says Khumbanyiwa.
So while the colors in her first collection were inspired by images taken from space, the fabric she chose was locally sourced chitenge (sometimes known as kitenge) -- a traditional cotton textile that's worn widely in Malawi, often printed with colorful patterns.
She admits that the pandemic has brought challenges for her business, but says it has also shown that people are happy to shop virtually. While she says internet shopping has yet to take off widely in Malawi, her online store has found customers in Kenya, the United States, Europe and Australia.
Khumbanyiwa sees herself as something of a trailblazer in her home country and hopes to inspire others to follow her lead.
"There aren't many people doing this in Malawi," she says. "I think if other people can see someone (do it) who looks like them, who is one of them, it makes them believe that they can too."