Remembering an icon. A friend. A trailblazing lover of life!
I started writing this blog a week after losing one of my favourite people to walk this earth. While I initially meant to share the piece immediately, my emotions kept getting the best of me. I couldn’t finish writing. It was and still is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to post on this site, and my heart remains in tatters trying to complete this.
But with Fashion Week upon us, I couldn’t help but think of what Aunty Cynthia would want me to do. This was one event we both enjoyed so much and for obvious reasons. Leading up to the event and once the dust had settled afterwards, our chats were filled with commentary of what we thought about all the showcases. As someone who loved fashion even more than I do, Aunty Cynthia shared my critical but loving gaze of our local industry. So as I head into the seventh edition of Windhoek Fashion Week, I realise that my lovely friend would surely encourage me to pick myself up from my slump, and get this blog and everything else I want to share from the event out into the world!
As soon as I got my tickets to the event, I knew I owed it to her to get my shit together and revive this blog. I owed it to her to celebrate Namibian Fashion Week like I always do, but this time, with her spirit watching over me.
The beginning of Fashion Week would always be marked by a call from me to her or vice versa. A proper tea-spilling chat about what we both expected from the event, the collections and the red carpet. Who delivered an A-class collection? Who completely dropped the ball? Which designers could have been left out of the line-up?
She’d obviously indicate which of her students were showcasing and we’d crack up about all the crazy red-carpet looks. More often than not, I’d be schooled if I dared to use the wrong terminology to describe something I saw on the runway. Once she read all the coverage from the event, she’d give me her two cents - with little to no filters. In fact, it was this honesty that made me - more often than not - run my ideas past Aunty Cynthia before making a fool of myself once my articles were published. There was no way I could embarrass my friend like that.
She would, like she often was, be too busy to attend. Yet she’d look out for my review articles and snaps to see and experience everything. She’d share her (brutally) honest thoughts. The collections, the street style, the organisation of the event… She’d even share her thoughts on all the post-event coverage.
I miss her now more than ever.
As a budding fashion writer over a decade ago, I was always curious about Cynthia Schimming. Everyone told me how she pioneered the Namibian fashion identity amongst a few other icons, and my then employers’ archived articles were proof. I was fortunate enough to finally interview her in 2012, and even luckier to be invited into her home, a simple interview that turned into an intimate chat. Her space, a reflection of her, is a beautiful Khomasdal residence that is as immaculate as it is welcoming and full of art. Beautiful Namibian art and photos of her loved ones adorn the walls.
Recently I sat at the dining table where she’d serve me the most amazing dishes, this time in her absence… forever - and I broke down in tears. Everything I loved about her came to me at that moment. The memories washed over me like endless waves beating up against the shore. I could hardly hold back the onslaught of emotions. This is the very first friend that I have lost in this way and nothing could have prepared me for the pain that would engulf me. I have not yet recovered, and just like I haven’t since losing my mom, I don’t think I ever will. I simply have to carry the pain with me as I navigate through my life without them.
Oh how I loved this woman.
Aunty Cynthia was not just a fashion designer. She was the moment!
A former fashion model and an educator in her late career, she mentored some of Namibia’s most talented designers over the years. She was a fashion historian, a music lover and an all-round fabulous human.
I mean, who can forget her amazing installation at the Ethnologisches Museum of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin?! To be at the height of her career and still produce such a spectacular and impactful piece of work?!
Apart from creating this installation, she lent her expert voice to the research and exhibition project ‘Confronting Colonial Pasts, Envisioning Creative Futures’. Throughout her career, her most profound work was notably her contribution to the development of young fashion designers. She was a lecturer, mentor, a musician (back in the day) and even an evaluator and assessor and one of the founding experts whose contributions led to the establishment of Namibia’s first ever Museum of Fashion.
I also can’t help but remember how excited she was to show me her certificate after completing one of her favourite designer’s Master Class in 2017. Or how she insisted on gifting me my first graduation gown and cap while reminding me that I can’t be buying these things if she’s THE provider of graduation garments for the University at which I was graduating.
Honestly, it’s impossible to list all of Aunty Cynthia’s contributions to so many fields or how she inspired me. What I can do is continue to remember and honour her while living my life as fully as she did hers.
As I prepare to take in this Fashion Week, I dedicate all my coverage to her. She would want me to make her feel like she was also in attendance and that’s exactly what I’ll do.
So, to my beloved Aunty Cynthia slaying in heaven, let’s Fashion Week, shall we?!