Zodwa Kumalo-Valentine caught up with SiSi the Collection co-founder Yasmin Furmie to gain insight into her fashion influences and travel tips
“My fashion choices defy expectation,” says 50-something-year-old Yasmin Furmie. And she’s spot on about that; there is nothing predictable or plain about this siren. Everything about her – from her effervescent energy, to the inspired colour and combinations of her wardrobe and that signature silver (sometimes lilac) cropped hair – have all combined to make her somewhat of an Instagram icon.
Who is she, where did she come from, and what does she do, are just some of the questions that people ask when her name inevitably comes up in fashion circles.
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The beginning of the journey
In fact, the style maven is not new to the space. Her first official foray into the creative world was in 2014, when she designed a collaborative collection with Misshape’s co-founder Jamal Nxedlana. Nxedlana is also a publisher, visual artist and the founder of online portal Bubblegum Club. “I always knew I wanted to be in that [fashion] world,” says Yasmin.
Recently Yasmin was reminded of an image of a woman wearing a beautiful white shirt and white skirt that she tore out of a magazine. “I asked my best friend to hold onto the picture for me, but I didn’t say and what for,” she says. “I just loved everything about it.”
That best friend was Cynthia Allie who Yasmin says stumbled upon that very image in her studio and reminded her of the moment. That moment was 26 years ago. Today, Yasmin and Cynthia are working on their latest range due out this December, as part of SiSi, a capsule collection of white shirts they both founded in 2016.
“You subconsciously work towards what you put out,” says Yasmin. “Working on Misshape gave me the confidence I needed to start SiSi with Cynthia.”
Before redirecting her energy and career path, Yasmin worked in a hospital as a social worker in Australia, where she spent her late teen and young adult years. She then worked at a non-governmental organisation in South Africa consulting for lawyers to get low-level criminal offenders’ sentences commuted to community service.
But even in such a serious environment, Yasmin couldn’t help but express herself through her bold wardrobe choices. “I was known for how I dressed, as much as I tried to tone it down for the surroundings,” she says, laughing.
That irrepressibly edgy style can also be attributed to her father who she claims influenced her fashion-forward eye. “He was that stylish guy in the neighbourhood who would be wearing Penny loafers and cowboy boots with jeans. There was a defiance in the way that he dressed.
And that’s evident in Yasmin whose style is quietly masculine but quite in-your-face in its quirkiness and colour. In one of her Instagram posts, she writes: “We can all pull it off. It’s about a mindset. It’s about taking risks, playing outside the lines drawn by society and moving beyond expectations. In this very difficult in this world, where people are judged based on colour, gender, ability, sexuality, politics. We need to take time out and discard the heaviness that weighs us down. Fashion can do that – play, be adventurous, be wild, be whatever you want to be. Pjs for dinner and your son’s tux – go on and do it!”
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When she’s not pushing fashion boundaries, the wife of an attorney and mother of 27-year-old son Ilyaas and 20-year-old daughter Afrah, spends time reading, in the gym every morning (except for Sundays), hanging out with her girlfriends and travelling.
Best fashion destinations
- London – an energizing meeting place of subcultures.
- Paris – a picture-postcard that echoes years of traditional, effortless style.
- Melbourne – a cool, edgy, individual style that’s influenced by diversity.
- Johannesburg – a risk-taking metropolitan that’s really come into its own, driven by young people doing their own thing.
- Milan – a classic style defined by older people who just dress beautifully.
Yasmin’s travel tips
- Pack light: I pack very light because I’m bound to do some shopping on the other side – especially if it’s an international trip.
- Pack basics: I mostly stick to black-and-white clothing – a pair of black pants or skirt and or dress; a black leather jacket and/or blazer, and shoes for dressing up or down like a pair of brogues or heels and sandals.
- Mix and match: Aside from key events, I change up my basics from day to night with a shoe or jacket or add a really cool shirt for a lunch or dinner, for example.
- Pack for comfort and ease. I always pack a pair of sneakers for the plane, and I use the lightest and smallest suitcase possible, so I don’t have to check it in.