Most people’s  first impression when meeting writer, advertising executive and creative entrepreneur Thandie Dowery is to notice her arresting beauty. Their next thought is generally to wonder where she bought her striking jewellery.

In fact, the shweshwe and wooden accessories that have become her style 
trademark are from her own line, Nomi Handmade. However, Thandie wasn’t always familiar with shweshwe. Born in New York to a Xhosa mother in exile, she came to SA as a reluctant teenager but has since settled happily. Like most creative start-ups, the origins of Nomi Handmade’s story are deeply personal. 

Thandie Dowery
Thandie Dowery
Image: Christof van der Walt @ One League

“Three years ago, when my mom passed away, I needed a creative outlet,” she says. She started crocheting, a skill her mom had taught her, and sold individual pieces through online marketplace Etsy while working as a freelance writer. Named after her mother, Nomi is an abbreviation of Nomgcobo, which means happiness, and the growing business is a daily reminder and commemoration of her mom. 

A break away from her Etsy store in 2014 gave Dowery time to think about further developing her creative skill. She started to experiment with rope jewellery and African fabrics. While her first efforts involved copious amounts of glue and the end result wasn’t what she’d imagined, overseas friends loved the results and started ordering some for themselves.

Over time she honed her technique to create the finely crafted accessories she sells to order today, and began experimenting with other materials. Having recently left her full-time job in advertising to concentrate on the business, her vision is to sell through her online store and stock boutiques nationwide.


DOWERY WEARS

A blue camisole from Zara, white jeans from  Mango, sandals from Zoom. All accessories Nomi Handmade. Preferring a laidback way of dressing that combines casual shapes and simple lines with plenty of elegant appeal, she enjoys Hilton Weiner’s brand aesthetic. However, Dowery regrets she doesn’t wear more dresses. “I wear a lot of white – it’s the ideal backdrop to show off my accessories!”


DOWERY RECOMMENDS

Role model? My sister Yolanda, who is the online features editor at Essence magazine. Favourite drink? Tokara Sauvignon Blanc. Favourite restaurant? Sea Point’s Backyard Grill – the ribs are to die for! Style tip? Accessorise! Ultimage indulgence? Food. I could write about food until the cows come home. My favourite is the egg and bacon croissants at Crust on Bree. Secret to success? I learn as much as I possibly can, all the time. Not a day goes by that I’m not reading to find out what other people know. Tetsuyama-san said, “The day you stop learning is the day you stop living.”


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