We meet the Zimbabwean designer putting a contemporary spin on African fabrics
Tanya Mushayi is the young Zimbabwean designer building her business through social media. The 24-year-old fashion fanatic started out making clothes for herself but things quickly snowballed when she tweeted a pic of herself wearing her design. Now her label Tanya Nefertari is a favourite amongst Zimbabwe’s music and style savvy crowd - and the word’s starting to spread faster than you can say “retweet”. Mushayi was born in Zimbabwe but moved to Manchester when she was 11 and went on to study surface design after a teacher noticed her passion for customising trainers. She returned to Zimbabwe in 2011 where her label Tanya Nefertari is currently putting a contemporary spin on traditional African fabrics. Check out the gallery of tweeted pics from Mushayi’s customers working her designs with panache and read on for a few words from the rising designer.
Dazed Digital: How did you first get into fashion?
Tanya Mushayi: I’ve always been into fashion as a blogger and designer (on my art and design diploma course I studied a module of fashion). But I got into fashion making by accident. I was walking around Harare when I first got here and saw the brightly colored kitenge fabrics (a kitenge or chitenge is an African garment similar to a sarong, often worn by women wrapped around the chest or waist) that were worn by older women in the city centre and the prints were gorgeous. I thought to myself I wouldn’t mind a dress using one of those fabrics. The first piece I made was a wrap dress and I posted the image on Twitter and people started asking me to make them one too and the rest is history.
DD: What is the fashion scene in Zimbabwe like?
Tanya Mushayi: The fashion scene in Zimbabwe is growing rapidly. There is a lot of up and coming young designers working on helping the scene grow on an international level and within Zimbabwe. People are very receptive to new talent and ideas when they are implemented well.
DD: What's a big look there right now?
Tanya Mushayi: The biggest look right now is the peplum. You can’t go anywhere without seeing some form of peplum whether it be on a dress, blazer or suit.
Read more on Studio Africa HERE.
DD: What's the ethos behind your Tanya Nefertari label?
Tanya Mushayi: The ethos behind the label is to promote everything that distinguishes us as Africans, be it bright colours, textured fabrics or loud prints. I intend to bring uniqueness and individuality to a world otherwise ruled by fashion clones, and to prove that Africa can start trends too.
DD: What inspires you?
Tanya Mushayi: I’m inspired by the art deco movement; I love the clean lines and African undertones within it.
DD: What's the story behind the photos of your customers?
Tanya Mushayi: Most of the customers in the photos would have found me via Twitter. It is through my tweets, Tumblr page, website and Facebook that I promote my garments. When customers see my garments, they then contact me via email and place an order. They send me photos afterwards as feedback and them wanting me to see how the garments look on them
DD: How important are Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to the label?
Tanya Mushayi: Social networking sites are important to my label in the sense that I use them a lot to promote and to measure customer satisfaction. They are also cost effective for my bottom line as a business trying to make a profit. For a small start-up business like mine without a marketing budget, this makes a vast difference.
DD: Does having such close contact with your customers influence your design?
Tanya Mushayi: Yes. For instance, I had never initially wanted to include a peplum dress in my past collection but I had so many requests from customers. I finally gave in and made one with a twist – up to now I am still getting requests. So it does help and influence my design in the sense that I do listen to some suggestions and try to respond to customer needs and wants.
DD: Who would you most love to dress?
Tanya Mushayi: I’d love to dress Erykah Badu, Solange and Theophilus London - they’re my muses. Everytime I design and make something, I always think and ask myself if these three would wear the garment depending on what I would have made.
DD: What do you have coming up this year?
Tanya Mushayi: This year the plan is to attend and participate in more pop up parties, networking events, fashion shows and festivals. All these would give me an opportunity to share ideas and be exposed more and have a pulse on the fashion industry.
DD: Where would you like to take the label in the future?
Tanya Mushayi: I’d like to take the label to international levels and to be more active in helping new up and coming designers with the knowledge and experiences I’ve learnt. At the moment, my business has no employees and I work single handed with the help of my mum. There are things that I would like to accomplish and things that I would like to do with my clothing line. There is a lot more work to be done in the mean time. For now I will concentrate on that and I will have to wait to see what the future holds. In the next 12 months, my wish is to have Tanya Nefertari clothing line in storefronts in as many stores all over Africa as possible, followed by having an on-line shop. This would also be doing my bit in employment creation especially for the young people in Zimbabwe.