Local jewellery designer Thandie Dowery shares the story behind Nomi Handmade

Since launching Nomi Handmade in 2015, jewellery designer Thandie Dowery has become one of the most celebrated names in the creative industry. Today, her designs are prized worldwide for their distinct multi-cultural aesthetic and beautifully crafted handmade quality. Each piece of jewellery is striking, timeless, and deeply personal, using boldly coloured shweshwe fabric, rope, and other textured materials. Thandie reveals how she built her business, sharing that although she followed her dream, it was primarily because of the encouragement of an incredible woman.

She launched Nomi Handmade and says it was one powerful woman who kept her motivated. “I started this to celebrate my mother, Nomgcobo, who also inspired the name of my business,” she says. “She was a significant influence on me and continues to be one. She also taught me to work hard and smart and make something from very little.”

Thandie’s mother encouraged her to follow her dreams – something society doesn’t often do, she reflects. “Society gears us towards entering the workforce, not pursuing our passion,” she says. “So to be able to listen to the voice inside you, follow your heart, and break away from the path most trodden takes a lot of guts. Many might not believe in you, and some might outright try to deter you. You just need to believe that you are capable, prepare yourself, and show up in passion as best as possible.” Distilling this knowledge in her, Thandie says she will forever be grateful to her mother.

Thandie’s journey as a jewellery designer started when she tried her hand at sewing shweshwe material. “I had leftover material from a previous textile project I’d attempted,” she explains, “and I knew I couldn’t waste it. But being a minimalist at heart, I would never wear such bold prints. And so I thought, why not accessorise with this? I played around with some rope and fabric, and I made my first pieces after much trial and error.” Thandie recalls her friends literally taking the pieces off her body to try on. “That’s when I knew I might be onto something,” she says.

Nomi Handmade takes pride in being a multi-cultural brand with roots in Sotho culture and a South African-American designer working behind the scenes. Nomi also means delightful in Hebrew, a name Nomgcobo took on after putting down roots in New York City and finding support amongst the Jewish community there.

Hoping to show how she lives this ethos and why doing what you love is crucial for both happiness and success, Thandie invited Sweet-Orr for an insider’s look into her world as a part of the #LoveWhatYouDo video campaign series. Discover the video here and other inspiring stories from South Africa’s leading creatives and tradespeople.