African Talent Leather Design Showcase 2023 Peoples Choice Award Winner: Nompumelelo Marilyn Samambgwa

Peoples Choice Award Winner: Nompumelelo Marilyn Samambgwa

African Talent Leather Design Showcase 2023 Peoples Choice Award Winner: Nompumelelo Marilyn Samambgwa

Nompumelelo Marilyn Samambgwa is a clothing, footwear and accessories designer from Harare, Zimbabwe. She started seriously pursuing a career in leather product design back in 2022 and wishes to continue learning and perfecting the craft. Nompumelelo is currently focusing on Footwear design but is planning to branch into apparel design in the near future.

Prior to pursuing the world of leather she was a resort fashion designer and is very passionate about hosting fashion shows to promote fashion designers.



Tell us about the inspiration behind your project:

I realized there was a gap in the market for shoe and accessory designs in Zimbabwe and considering it is one of the biggest leather exporters in Southern Africa this encouraged me to contribute to the leather market. The aim for my project is to fill the gap in locally manufactured shoes that draws inspiration from the diverse and yet least celebrated culture, heritage, arts and crafts of Zimbabwe.

My inspiration is a combination of:

  • The Great Zimbabwe (house of stone) monument’s chevron
  • The legend of the Nyami Nyami which is a mystical creature that is believed to be half snake with a half fish head that lives at the bottom of the Zambezi River in the Kariba, prehistorically called Kariva, an area of Zimbabwe
  • The intricate and eye-catching basketry weaving of the BaTonga of Binga. The Binga basketry is a popular heirloom of interior design and treasured traditional gifts in Zimbabwe

The back of the boot is an amalgamation of the history of the displaced BaTonga people to Binga from Kariba the home of the Nyami Nyami. Entwined in the artistic depiction of the chevron is a weaving on the bottom back feeding into the heel, derived from the popular hand carved Nyami Nyami walking stick. The tussle hanging on the back zip is drawn from the reeds used to hang-position the baskets during weaving. The rest of the boot is intentionally plain to draw attention to the story narrated by the back design.

Nyami Nyami


What do you think makes leather a great material to design with?

Leather is one of the most diverse of all the natural design materials. Leather is available in all strengths and thicknesses, which gives it the flexibility of use when manufacturing for a huge range of sectors. Leather allows for a wide range of creative freedom as it can be worked into any shape or design, it can be laser printed on, embossed and painted on.


How do you think winning this competition will impact your career as a designer?

After I got diagnosed with a chronic illness in 2020, I took a back seat in the field of fashion and design as the work weighed heavy on my mental and physical conditions. I then decided to rekindle my love for leather craft, practicing and working on leather footwear has taught me patience in the craft as well as with myself. Winning this competition will solidify my dream of becoming a leatherwear producer as well as assure me that no matter what adversities I’m facing my dreams are valid.


What are your thoughts on leather and sustainability, and how you think leather can adapt to a fashion industry increasingly focused on sustainability?

The best thing about working with leather is that as a designer you know you’re creating a product that can be passed from generation to generation. Additionally, leather has the possibility of being revived or renewed.


Click here to learn about the Africa Design Competition.

Click here to learn more about leather and sustainability.