Let's give our local designers a chance

HARARE - I grew up in the ‘’nose brigade era’’ and I cannot help but feel responsible for being part of a snobbish generation that orchestrated a ‘hate’ for all locally made products.

The term local was a reference to anything that was substandard or lacking any appeal.

A visit to a tailor would be received by demeaning comments from peers and quite frankly would have been more of an insult to the tailor than myself.

My first encounter with a local tailor was quite unpleasant.

I remember walking into a dingy room, no window, overloaded by a hoard of cheap materials, and a slightly miserable young girl sitting in a corner presumably to measure new clients.

Fast forward, I think about how sceptical we still are about African related products. We are not aware of the value of what they produce.

It is difficult not to cringe with discomfort regarding the relationship between fashion and Africa, especially when I am constantly reminded that Africa is an idealised specimen for global exploitation in fashion and art.

A colleague told me of how at a conference in New York earlier this year, one of the speakers adamantly refused to acknowledge that there was such a thing as ‘’African fashion’’. I was not surprised.

Many argue that Africa has never totally freed itself from domination of the West. This unhealthy relationship of puppetry has been a common feature.

There is sadly a ‘foreign is best’ mind-set and serious cultural hang-ups.

We have always thought that in order for us to be celebrated and recognised, we need to ‘get away’ from home.

The truth is…… home is the source of distinction! We need to believe in the value of made in Africa and say to hell with validation from the West!

Enough on blaming ‘capitalism’for allowing it, high time we looked at the ‘man in the mirror’ and start asking serious questions on our need for foreign designer brands.

We have all bought into globalisation and become part of the madness.

Meanwhile, China’s inroads penetrate Zimbabwe deeper and deeper as the sale of Western cast offs are flooding our markets, leaving a negative impact.

Local designers get lost in the industry and cannot compete.

The reality is we cannot protect our own fashion industry if we are importing second hand goods.

Locally manufactured clothing allows for build-up of economy, so rather than moving forward; we are taking giant leaps backwards. Zimbabwe should support its proudly made garments too.

Zimbabwean consumers are no longer satisfied with a third class rate offering of products. Their brand awareness is strongly driven by international standards.

Designers do not have the means to manufacture enough clothes to support a population of Zimbabwe and above, so there is a need to grow the manufacturing and production side of the business.

Local designers must create designs that appeal, and should consider tailoring trends that suit the African Audience.

We need to make our local needs a priority and recognise our individual role in the process.

Our policy makers should understand that if they sign a contract that increases foreign goods, they cannot throw up their hands in despair when the local fashion industry goes belly up!

Nonetheless I am confronted with the reality that I am not exempt from the influence of the fashion industries’ long reach.

It is time for a closet overhaul!! Let’s give our local designers a chance!

Comments (1)

Question: Should we also support the jongwe label? You would have to kill me first!

Bingo Wokwa Gutu - 11 February 2014

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