DO Zimbabweans like to wear local designer brands??
Before you respond, think about where you bought your most recent outfit, maybe even what you are wearing right now.
Last week, international music icon Oliver Mtukudzi was urging Zimbabweans to shake off the inferiority complex that manifests in the tendency to favour foreign products over local brands, especially at the expense of our culture and heritage.
Mtukudzi, who is showcasing his fashion brand at this year’s Zimbabwe Fashion Week, raised an interesting point. In Zimbabwe, the who’s who show off their wealth by wearing expensive European threads rather than local brands.
Middle to upper class individuals shop in exclusive boutiques that import their clothing from China, the US, the UK, Turkey, Italy, the UAE and South Africa.
Budget-able consumers either get their clothes tailored by a seamstress, buy from affordable import store outlets or go to hunt for bargains at Kotamai Boutiques (Second hand clothing shops).
Tatenda Chidzidzi, a Fashion Revolution activist does, however, said there is a small market in Zimbabwe opting to rather buy from local designers than foreign brands. So then who is to blame for the poor adoption of “Proudly Zimbabwean” fashion brands? Are we the buyers of clothing to blame or is it the designers fault?
Style Corner sought to find out why Zimbabwean fashion rarely appeals to Zimbabweans by surveying some locals. First issue raised from respondents is affordability. Zimbabwean products are sometimes ridiculously priced compared to imports.
Sharon Mungazi, a shopper, said she would rather be budget savvy when shopping.
“I would buy local sustainable fashion if they were better priced than the cheaper Chinese manufactured clothes and accessories. But our clothes are expensive. What can I do, walk naked for my country?”
Chipo Kamusikiri, for instance, shopped on the online retailer, Zando, to buy a bag.
“Buying on the South African online store was half the price it would cost buying the designer bag from here. So why burn a hole through my pocket unnecessarily?”
Understandably manufacturing in Zimbabwe costs more for designers. But who can blame a buyer for finding a good bargain? But besides being expensive, are our designers as trendy as foreigners whose brands flood our market? Designer Danayi Chapfika said while designers try to be innovative and original, consumers are not receptive at first.
“Zimbabweans swing between being followers and late adopters of fashion trends,” said Chapfika.
Another designer, Simba Moyo, said local celebrities are losing an opportunity to use their influence and stage outfits to start trends that Zimbabwean people can identify with.
“Some local musicians would rather buy foreign outfits for stage performances than choose to design their garments. Musicians should follow in the steps of Tuku whose outfits are designed by him,” said Moyo.
However, it looks like very few designers have broken into the market successfully, blaming this on everything else but themselves.
Designers need to satisfy the taste of consumers by reaching standards in quality, design and simple additions like wash instructions, buyers will always buy into what they believe in.
Designers have to step up their game to convince buyers to get their garments. There are Zimbabwean fashion success stories that have adapted to the consumers – standing out and being visible in the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans is key.
The President Mugabe-inspired clothing line, House of Gushungo, has gained popularity as the revolutionary has fans all over the world. Faith Wear clothing is another very popular brand that has grown throughout the years as a sportsgear brand. Their continued support in designing national sportsgear have kept them relevant.