Zim designer empowers women through fashion

LONDON - Motherhood is not only the hardest job you’ll ever love — as the slogan goes — it is also the hardest job you’ll ever do.

I love my daughters more than I ever thought possible and I am blessed to have a strong supportive family. The reality of many others is that motherhood can be tough, especially when you are on your own.

This story sums up Panashe´ Designs founded by Chipo Mudzengi-Hwami.

I am such a sucker for happy endings that the first time I spoke to Chipo — the creative force behind Panashe´ — I was so overwhelmed by her persistence to make something of herself against all odds as a single mother in a foreign land.

After leaving Zimbabwe for the United States, Chipo found herself in the position that many people face after moving to new pastures: The incredible barriers and the lack of affordable, safe and reliable child care.

In 2007 after a most admirable breakthrough from many struggles, Panashe Designs was born.

One of Chipo’s motivations was that she didn’t like the way that fashion was representing women.

Because women were constantly being reminded that they were not thin enough, she made it her mission to empower women by designing clothing that complemented their beauty from the inside and the outside, regardless of their shape and size. She saw a gap in the fashion industry, where women were made to suffer “waistline guilt’’ — by the size-zero campaign.

Panashe´ aims to ensure that women feel confident by wearing pieces that they can relate to and that fit their needs, a powerful thing that most designers overlook.

It is humbling that Chipo’s vision is not to dictate what women should wear but rather offer new options to fit the lifestyle of women who may not have had the option of choosing what makes them feel comfortable and beautiful.

All women experience the same feelings of inadequacy and doubt, all stemming from how they look, and how they are judged.

Chipo feels strongly that wearing right-sized clothing adds another layer of information to empower women. Self-esteem and image are deeper issues.

Being a small business-owner is in itself one of the most challenging things an individual can do but when you have passion for what you do and drive to make it happen, you are bound to be a success.

For Chipo, her passion for fashion has enabled her to break into the world of fashion with a fashionable iron hammer.

This is an awesome inspiration and powerful example for women looking to combine their creative talents with social values.

Panashe´  demonstrates that you do not need a wealth of resources to promote purpose and productivity.

I am inspired by Chipo, and I challenge Zimbabwean designers (including myself) to use the power of fashion to empower women and to make sure that the empowered women look phenomenal as we use the fashion industry to potentially help to rebuild the economy of the country.

We should all strive to have the same unity in positive thinking and team building. Thank you Chipo, you are a treasure.

*Pamela is a Zimbabwean fashion journalist and fashion accessory designer based in the United Kingdom. She can be contacted on pamsamasuwo@live.co.uk

For more information on Panashe, visit http://www.panashedesigns.com


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