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The Zambian bloggers capturing the country’s blossoming fashion scene

Get to know six emerging influencers on the scene in Lusaka

In our new column TEEN ANGST, a different teenager makes their views heard on Dazed each month. Here, 18-year-old Miselo Matipa writes about the rising Zambian fashion influencers she loves to follow.

The Zambian fashion scene was once a baby. Sensibly dressed and quiet. Which isn’t to say there was something wrong with the child, but there was nothing extraordinary to note; no penchants for prints, affinity to ascots or even a favorite colour. But with the rise of blogging in Zambia, a tribe of stylish and driven people have used their platforms to discover one another – and now, thanks to the internet, the scene is growing up.

Dazed spoke to six Zambian fashion bloggers about what they’re doing to help the scene grow in scale and credibility, the nature of being a creative in a country where the arts are looked down on, and how they’re changing what it means to dress in an “African” or “Zambian” way.

SEYAKI AND TUKIYA FUNDAFUNDA (MAFASHIO)

“We live in a society that glorifies stability, and there’s something to be said for that,” says Tukiya (or Kii) Fundafunda, one half of the creative sister duo MaFashio.  “Get the right degree, get the house, get the marriage and get the kids. It is continuously terrifying to choose something else. But that’s why we haven't quit even when things got hard, because of that feeling of waking up and doing something you love and being paid.”

“Ma fashio” is a term used in Zambia to describe an outfit that’s wild, outlandish, and doesn't fit with conservative society. Sekayi (or Kayi), the other half of the pair, explains that they started the blog because they would see people wearing these amazing and beautiful outfits and ask themselves, “do you think anyone tells them how nice they look?” From this idea, the ladies of MaFashio started taking pictures of themselves and other people in outlandish outfits. Ten years on, people know how nice they look thanks to Kayi and Kii. The duo are arguably the biggest fashion bloggers in Zambia. They organise events such as "Fashion for Brunch" and create lookbooks or creative direction for local and international companies such as Orca Deco, Bata, Legit and Vodafone.

All of this does not come without challenges. Zambia does not have some of the systems that exist in other parts of the world to support fashion blogging and other creative endeavours. So, by virtue of being the “first” to do it, Kayi and Kii make a lot of it up as they go along. As their live change, their style changes with it; Kayi and Kii have gone from being very bold to favouring what they call an afrominimalism: lots of linen, simple geometric shapes, and pieces that seem to float all with embellishments that are uniquely African. The community of people (or tribe) Kayi and Kii have worked so hard to build up does not share the same sense of style, but they all – like Kii – believe that “it’s such a beautiful thing for someone to come from an otherwise conservative environment and create their own identity”.

Follow @mafashio 

MWAPE FUNDANGA

Currently based in France pursuing an MFA in Interior Architecture, Mwape doesn’t get to be in the middle of things in Zambia, and has spent most of her time as a fashion blogger being outside of Zambia and watching things change. She’s very optimistic about the ways in which this generation of artists living in Zambia are trying new things; there are visual art collectives, musicians and bloggers building a network of creatives that hasn't existed until now. This makes her excited to come back home after she finishes her studies and finally be in the heat of it.

Mwape loves art in all its forms, and for her, fashion is an extension of visual art that you get to put on your body. Mwape’s style is based around a simple ethos of: “if you’re spending the whole day walking around uncomfortable, then you probably look a hot mess”. She’s minimal, sporty and edgy, with afro elements of her Zambian heritage thrown in. She’s Afropolitan in every sense of the word.

She does want to come back home and do something with what she loves, maybe design and decorate homes. Currently sharing all her work on Instagram, she hopes to one day have a proper blog, as well as a fashion line, but she doesn’t want to plan anything – “when you make a plan, God laughs”.  She elaborates, “My biggest challenge that I face is self doubt; I'm a perfectionist, I’m trying to accept that if things are meant to work out they’ll work out.”

Follow @mwah_pe

BRYAN MANDA

“My first introduction to fashion was chitenge, and I can’t overlook that; African prints give me a sense of identity,” says Bryan Manda. Chitenge is a multipurpose sarong-like piece of clothing that can be used as a head wrap, a baby sling, or gift paper. They are very casual, and women in Zambia usually wear them around the house as they work. In fashion, they are used to make skirts, jackets, shirts, or pants.  In the last ten years, there’s been a subversion in fashion, and you now get crop tops, jeans with chitenge patches, or even scrunchies.

Bryan got his start in fashion blogging because he wanted to write, and one day had the realisation that he could combine his passions when it occurred to him, “I can do both – I can be a writer and I can also be a fashion and lifestyle blogger”. In 2016, he found Stanley Chizema on Instagram, and the two instantly connected.

Follow @iambryo

STANLEY CHIZEMA

Bryan and Stanley are each other’s long lost brothers, cut from the same beautiful chitenge cloth. Stanley got his start in blogging because, “Whenever I would go to castings, I got the same thing of ‘you’re too short’, and finally decided to start taking my own photos.” Like Bryan, he spends a lot of time grappling with being a man in fashion, and the vulnerability that comes with liking clothes in a country that has a “man’s man” mentality.

“I want people, when I walk in, to know that I am here – I love wearing pieces that are not ordinary like wearing pajamas and messing with shapes,” says Stanley. Their style is very soft, and goes against what is traditionally expected of Zambian men in fashion. They attribute this to the daring menswear designers who show at Zambian Fashion Week. “The men are really stepping up and embracing more exciting things; it's such a relief to not just see ten suits with kitenge shirts underneath on the runway.”

Follow @stanley_chizema

BANJI CHONA

If you talk to Banji Chona for five minutes you realise that, while she’s giving you ‘carefree black girl’, she actually cares a lot. Her caring is the result of a major in International Relations and Politics, lots of art, and 2013-era Tumblr. And most importantly, “My Grandad had this ladder analogy that said, there’s a ladder, and the higher you get up on it the more responsibility you have to lift other people up along with you.” She firmly believes that she would not be where she is without the ladder, and she is not leaving till more people are up on it.

Banji was lifted very early on by an aunt who made jewellery. Born in Zambia, going to high school in South Africa and then to university in the UK, her audience is made up of mostly 14-25 year old young women in Zambia, who she thinks follow her because of her advocacy for doing what makes you happy and being yourself. It seems really easy to do, but it takes a lot of work and responsibility to navigate the politics of representation, because she is one representation of what a Zambian woman can be, and even more broadly, what a black woman can be.

Her style is built around neutral colours, sustainability, comfort and feeling like her most authentic self – because “why look good at the expense of other people?” She also acknowledges that “the life of the black woman is constantly being politicised, and there's pressure to be palatable and passive, but I’m here to live my life.” Banji makes sure to enjoy the ability to make choices her grandmothers couldn’t, while also trying to remain accessible and cognizant of the fact that not everyone in her audience can afford to make the choices she can.

Banji will be coming back to Zambia soon and returning to pull people up the ladder. She's currently working at non-profit government organisation, Modzi Arts as a curator, aiming to uplift the arts in Zambia through art residencies, music workshops and more. Having a platform is a responsibility, and Banji knows how to handle it.  

Follow @banjichona