Musician, designer’s unique Zulu sneaker sandals have a whole lotta sole

© Provided by The South African

Local musician and shoe designer Thando Simelane is making waves in Mzansi with his unique traditional Zulu sandal designs. Simelane uses the soles of old sneakers, specifically Nike Air Force 1 sneakers, to make these sandals. Simelane told Business Insider that he loved wearing Mbatata sandals but comfort quickly became an issue for him. 

ALSO READ: Kylie Jenner flaunts SA designer Thebe Magugu’s fab wool suit [photos]


Thando Simelane is a fashion designer and musician born and bred in Johannesburg. His creative shoe designs came to life after struggling with the traditional Mbatata sandals. 

“When I wore them, two hours was enough because my feet would hurt because also, the rubber underneath doesn’t bend much, so I figured what can we do with this?” the 29-year-old told Egoli hitmaker told Business Insider. 

Together with his business partner, Katlego Leroy Tsoagong aka Cozy Bone, they decided to come up with their own version of the shoe with a streetwear feel. 

“We thought let’s just merge the two, try an Air Force 1 sole, try a trainer sole, anything that has air technology to see if we can work with this aesthetic and it kind of worked.” 


Simelane and Cozy Bone’s scored an exciting moment on the runway at the Durban Fashion Fair in 2019. They connected with Thai fashion designer Chu Swannapha, who is known for his African-inspired fashion pieces. 

“He said he’s doing a fashion show and already has someone for shoes, but if we could confirm that we could make 20 by a certain date, then he’d drop everyone else for us,” recalled Simelane. 

“We made it happen”. 

ALSO READ: Riky Rick: Five fashion flexes we’ll never forget [photos]


Although Simelane has been wearing the sandal for more than two years now, he’s not sure when it will be available to the world. 

The handmade shoe will possibly retail for R1 000 to R2 000. 

He said the top of the shoe, which is made from the original Mbatata rubber, will be replaced by leather in the near future.