LOCAL fashion designer, Tarisai Gweje, has graced many international fashion ramps and has been a regular feature at Castle Tankard fashion shows over the last two years.
She has represented Zimbabwe at Fashion Week in Nigeria and the London Fashion Week in 2015. She is scheduled to represent the country at the African Fashion reception in Paris, France in November. NewsDay Lifestyle reporter, Precious Chida (ND) caught up with Gweje (TG), who opened up about her life as a designer for the past 14 years among other things. Below are excerpts of the interview.
ND: Give us a brief description of Tarisai Gweje
TG: Tarisai Gweje is the second daughter in a family of 14. She is an entrepreneur, a fashion designer, a fully dedicated Christian who lives in Chitungwiza. I am a single lady currently running my own fashion label, Chaivo Designs, and a studio.
ND: How best can you describe the fashion industry since the day you ventured into the business?
TG: It has been a journey full of ups and downs. There is always the bitter side and the good side. When I first got into the fashion industry in 2003, there were a lot of activities happening. I was only 17 and surprisingly I got a lot of opportunities. It was really a good year for me because the industry was promising a lot in terms of sponsorship and things like that but things just started to fall apart (until) we had no sponsorship and no shows. However I am happy that I have been growing and as fashion designers in Zimbabwe things are now starting to open up and I’m sure we are going to get somewhere if we continue to work hard.
ND: You have been to the Africa Fashion Week in Nigeria representing Zimbabwe. Can you share your experiences with us?
TG: It was really an awesome experience. I loved every bit of it. More so, I pray that I get funding so that I can have more such experiences because I have also been invited to represent Zimbabwe at African Fashion reception in Paris, France.
I was also supposed to represent Zimbabwe at Africa fashion week in London but I couldn’t go because of monetary issues I just hope this doesn’t affect my dream again this time.
ND: You are known for making unique and extra ordinary designs. Tell us about your inspiration?
TG: I draw my inspiration from anything. The moment I talk and breath and chat with people from around the community, I always take something from that. What drives me is the passion that I have for being an artist. I know that I am a talented artist who can do anything and because I am creative, I know that there is nothing impossible.
ND: Can you take us through some of your productions?
TG: I have the avant-garde designs which I make from any recycled materials (such as) wires, spoons and other things these include the Breaking Boundaries which was the first collection that I first showcased out of Zimbabwe, Scandal Scandals that I showcased at HIFA High Fashion show in 2015, Meeting the Mysterious Age, exhibited in the National Gallery (of Zimbabwe) in August and the scandalous, which is made from the quail bird (zvihuta), among others. I also make African attires and other types of clothes.
ND: Of all your, productions which one is your favourite and why?
TG: I love the avant-garde designs because they are so challenging and everyone just asks how I come up with them. It opens my mind more and I enjoy doing it.
ND: What was the most remarkable day in your journey as a fashion designer?
TG: When I finally managed to showcase my work out of Zimbabwe. It was a huge breakthrough in my career. It was my big moment to preach the gospel of real fashion out there and to show to the world that Zimbabweans can also produce phenomenal work.
ND: Looking at the present-day economic conditions in Zimbabwe, has it affected your business in anyway?
TG: The present situation has really done a lot of harm in our industry because there are now bales of (second hand) clothes which are now coming in and everyone is now going there because it’s very cheap. However, I cannot sell my clothes for $2 just to match up with the competition. Some of the equipment that we use cannot be found in Zimbabwe, which has caused problems for me because even if I want to export from other countries the duty that I pay is too high. As fashion designers, we are not supported because we are not seen as serious business people or artists. We need that backing from established companies and even the government itself to improve our fashion industry but we are not getting that.
ND: Was this a self-taught thing or you received professional training in designing?
TG: I am talented but obviously I needed professional help, so it is a raw talent that has been enlightened. I went to a fashion designing and art school for a year and after that I went to Harare Polytechnic for some part-time courses just to perfect my brainpower. However, most of my works are raw flairs like the avant-gardes. I learned to do the design and develop it to what it is now on my own.
ND: Can you say you have achieved what you intended to accomplish as a designer?
TG: I haven’t achieved what I want. I haven’t achieved my biggest dream. I still feel like I’m behind and I haven’t gone that far. I want to own a designer’s factory someday where I design my own label and sell it internationally and locally. I don’t know how long it’s going to take but I want to make sure that I get there. There is also a lot of talent out there, children who are good in fashion and art but they do not have the opportunity to showcase it. I want to be able to help those people. So, before I have those things I cannot feel like I have achieved much.
ND: What do you think must be done to improve the face of our fashion industry?
TG: Zimbabwean clothing manufacturers should work with current designers because I believe they have what it takes to produce trendy designs. A platform should also be made for Zimbabwean designers and we might not have the best quality, but we have a lot of talented designers that produce good things out of those low quality material. We have the ability to take over the fashion industry in Africa only if we embrace fashion designers.
ND: Thank you for your time Tarisai
TG: You are welcome.