Fashion design is for the thick-skinned

BULAWAYO - Prominent fashion designer Yvette Marguax Ndaba, 37, says only resilient and relevant fashion designers can make it in Zimbabwe’s challenging economic environment.

The award-winning designer conceded in an interview with the  Daily News on Sunday that she has come close to throwing in the towel several times.

“Every day the thought runs through my mind actually.  As a designer you are the last priority when people make their budgets. One does not eat clothes. Also, staying relevant as a designer in a hostile economic environment is a difficult thing,” Ndaba said.

The Eve-O Designs label owner has been kept going by the various accolades she has won.

“In 2015 my efforts paid off as I was nominated for Fashion Designer of the year for the Zimbabwe International Women's Awards in England and fortunately I won.

“It is an annual award ceremony in which the nominated designers are voted for by the public. I am a plus-size fashion designer. So I guess l have satisfied a few people.

“I also won at the Zimbabwe Models Awards held in Harare on December 16 last year where I was crowned the Fashion Designer of the Year,” Ndaba said.

The Bulawayo-based designer also takes pride in the way she has managed to dress high-profile personalities.

“I have dressed the wife of the tourism minister Barbara Mzembi and several prominent pastors who include Audrey Makoni from Celebration Church as well as the leader of Eagle Life Ministries Blessing Chiza and his wife,” she said proudly.

Her accomplishments also include dressing Tracey-Anne Buckley Aggett who was the first runner up at the Mrs Universe beauty pageant held in China last year as well as former Miss Zimbabwe and Miss Tourism Zimbabwe Samantha Tshuma.

“Last year I was selected as one of the designers to dress a contestant for Miss Tourism Zimbabwe 2016 called Shirley-Ann Lindsay who was later crowned the second princess,” said Ndaba.

Ndaba’s designing talent has also impressed many beyond the country’s borders. In July last year Ndaba took part in a workshop held at the National Gallery in Bulawayo by a Filipino fashion designer John Ablaza.

The Filipino fashion designer, who came to Zimbabwe courtesy of the embassy of the United States of America in Harare, was so impressed by Ndaba’s designs that he invited her to her to open his show - The John Ablaza Culture and Couture Show- held in New York on December 10 last year.

The purpose of the fashion show was to help the Children of Silozwane Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and St Martin de Porres, Cebu City in the Philippines. The high-class event gathered 150 VIP guests from New York’s most influential circles, celebrity appearances and several media companies.

“For the show I travelled with Samantha Tshuma and a plus-size model called Belia Zibowa. It was an eye-opening and memorable experience,” she recalled.

Tshuma was equally delighted to have been chosen to model Ablaza and Ndaba’s clothes.

“I was really humbled to have been awarded the opportunity to model in New York, not only in John Ablaza’s couture but also Yvette Ndaba. No words can express what I feel right now and I am happy to have been a part of this,” she said soon after the event.

Ndaba’s achievements in Zimbabwe and beyond belie the fact that she is a self-taught fashion designer.

“I have no formal training at all. The last time l was in a design class was when I was in Form 2 at Townsend High School.

“I started designing and making clothes when I was in high school. My friends were my 'guinea pigs'.  I never took it seriously at first hence it became an on-and-off affair,” she said.

Ndaba later became a manager for a leading fast food chain after which she became a buyer for a popular boutique store but this did not extinguish her love for designing clothes.

“During that time I was making pieces for myself, which people would take an interest in. At times would insist on buying the very outfit I would be wearing. This encouraged me to start my clothing label Eve-O Designs in 2000,” she remembered.

Ndaba has credited her mother and the city of Bulawayo for being sources of inspiration.

“My mother was my main inspiration by default. She would ask me to make all sorts of things around the house. I suppose she realised that l was good at creating much earlier than I did.

“There is a lot of inspiration in Bulawayo. The designers in this city are very talented but the fashion industry in the city will only be viable if people have a disposable income to buy clothes,” she said.

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charly - 8 May 2017

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