Friday, 17 January 2014

Local Lovely Flavour: Interview with Natasha Kagoro

Natasha Theresa Kagoro is a 20-something emerging fashion designer based in Harare, and one whom I got the lucky opportunity to interview face-to-face on my first one-on-one interview with any individual for that matter. Our location was Bannie’s restaurant within the NSSA building along Sam Nujoma/Second street extension, on a sunny (beautiful) mid Monday morning. I wanted to know the lady behind the label Black Excellence, which showcased a very elegant collection at last year’s FWZ 2013 held at the Borrowdale Racecourse. I had only seen Natasha backstage that evening but this was the first time I actually got to meet her. Our interview was an eye-opener and at the same time very intriguing! It was like catching up with an old friend (Natasha’s words by the way), to which I concur to as well. I sure hope to create a very strong friendship with her because this is the first designer I met who was very open and honest from the get-go. I might not share every detail of our meet-and-greet but I will try and cover as much ground as possible to let you in on the experience.

And here it is:

Describe yourself in 5 quick words
Mother, Entrepreneur, Crazy, Hardworker and Dedicated

Now tell me who is Natasha Theresa Kagoro
Natasha Kagoro is a designer, farmer and a Beauty and Body Therapist by profession; nickname being “Tessa”. I studied Beauty therapy at Cindy’s Beauty Parlour right here in Harare in Greendale and I studied Body Therapy for one year in Durban, South Africa at The Beauty Specialist Training Academy. As a body therapist I cover reflexology, aroma therapy and body massage.

And school wise?
I grew up in America from 1992-1999 in New York City and so I did my primary education there and when I came back home I enrolled into Westridge High School and then later I went to Speciss College for two years before later enrolling into Beauty Therapy. 

*Furthermore, Natasha shared a bit of her life struggles, which I found to be very touching and inspiring, and with her permission I’m going to share. She was once a cross boarder trader, yes when times turned for the worse in Zimbabwe in 2008, she shared how she wanted to make ends meet as a single parent by turning to cross-boarder trading. A lot of you must know that cross-boarder trading is a risky and dangerous business, travelling at least four times a week and at strenuous hours between Botswana and South-Africa (Natasha noted mainly Botswana at the time due to no visa application). She also talked about how she was a carpenter at one point whilst living on her own in South-Africa after Therapy school, and actually helped with the carpentry work in the apartment building that she was residing in at that time. Looking at this, carpentry work is mainly a male designated work field with a lot of manpower, and you can imagine the dust from carving wood. When she shared this I joked about how she has a little experience in home d├ęcor, but for her it was more of a hustle.*

So tell me, who are you as a designer?
I’m a designer who is very hard working. I had always been a designer since as a young girl thanks to my mother (Mrs. Patricia Parwada), who is a French Tailor by profession that studied in New York. Designing and sewing had always been there but it was just something on the side for me, that I just did at home. I didn’t think I would venture into designing until only last year when I entered Fashion Weekend Zimbabwe with a little push from my brother’s girlfriend (musician Vera). I didn’t take it seriously at first nor did I think I would be shortlisted, but then one day I received a confirmation letter and that’s how it all started. Black Excellence officially launched for the first time in April 2013.

Wow! 2013 sounded like a pretty good year for you, launching in April and then a few months later you showed your collection at FWZ 2013. I only have one question for you; describe 2013 in one word?

*At this point I’m loving how our conversation is flowing, so much so that we forget our drinks in front of us*

Ok before going back to you as a designer, tell me what FWZ was like for you?
It was tough and great at the same time. It was tough in the sense that it required hard work and dedication whilst at the same time I’m also juggling being a mother to my daughter. It was also great because I made new friends with fellow designers through our workshops and conferences. I’ve become very close to each and every one of them and we constantly stay in touch. (Fellow designers being Samantha Matemadombo, Tanya Mushayi, Edmond Chikumbirike, Samantha Dika and Nyasha Nhutsve).

Some of Natasha's designs from FWZ.
What inspires you as a designer?
I really have no particular inspiration; it just comes at that moment in time. I will start something with a rough sketch and then with time it will just continue to evolve and take its own form, coming straight from the heart. But I like to always stay with the theme of the label which is Simplistic Elegance. Another thing I would like to point out is my mom; I think my mother is my biggest inspiration due to her knowledge in sewing, tailoring and design. I really didn’t go to design school or cover any design course because everything I needed to know and that I learned came from my mother. So to really sum it up I think she is my biggest inspiration.

Other factors I also look at is the fabric choice, I can completely create a piece just from my fabric choice; it all depends with my mood.

And your personal style as a designer? How would you describe it?
Really simple and laid back. I’m just sneakers, jeans and a vest and I’m good to go!

And your pet peeve as a designer?
Ok I will just put it out there; I don’t think it’s necessary to dress up to go to the supermarket to buy bread or something! It’s not necessary to wear a maxi dress just to buy bread, that’s one thing I find unnecessary. I also think young people should stop copying celebrities because celebrities have a marketing strategy to their clothing and fashion on a day to day basis.

Since 2013 was a starting point for Black Excellence, what can we expect from the label in 2014?
Hmm... I have three ladies collections planned out just for this year and I started the first collection late last year. I’m also working on opening the label’s first boutique close to the CBD area in Harare by end of January. It will carry the label and other emerging designers to showcase their material. My plan is to make it a centre for tailored clothing by incorporating other designers and selling them at a very affordable price for the fashion-loving individual. There is soo much raw talent out there that just goes unnoticed.

Other than the label, I also have a side project collaboration with Tariro Negatire (@tarironegitare) whom is very dear because she proudly wears some of my designs for her shows. It’s called Acoustic Fashion Night which is a joint quarterly event that Tariro and myself host at the Zimbabwean German Society. Our first show was in December 2013, which I must say was a great turnout. I take care of the fashion part of the show which is the showcase, clothing, designers and the models whilst Tariro co-ordinates the music, band and artistes. So it’s a great collaborative venture, and what I love about it is it focuses on young designers. So it’s all in good fun with an acoustic fusion.

You mentioned a Ladies collection, are there any plans for a men’s collection in 2014?
Depends on the mood…will see.

So back to you once again, I want to know who is your absolute style icon?
Christian Dior! I love his original silhouette of the women’s fashion from the 1950s and 1960s. It’s probably my most favourite fashion era.

*Me and her have something in common, we both adore the 1950s and 60s era. I think it was the best fashion era of all time that really defined a woman’s silhouette*

And what is your most absolute must-have fashion accessory at the moment?
Chunky Bangles! I love chunky bangles and/or bracelets! I believe the more stacked on, the better.
Stacked Bracelets Natasha was wearing during our interview.
Before we round up, I want to know if you have any philosophies that you live by?
I’m really a blunt, straightforward and honest person so for me honesty is very important. I like good criticism because I personally think it is constructive and it builds you. Responsibility for me is also a very key element especially since I’m a company owner. I try my level best to be a responsible businesswoman to my family, community and potential clients. I also strongly believe in giving back; my mother always tells me in order to achieve success and be successful you must give back to those who need it the most. Even if it’s just a small piece of advice or helping someone out, I always strongly feel like giving back is just as important as receiving something because it will always come back to you. And prayer! You really can’t forget to turn to God in any situation.

Last but not least, what do you think needs to be done to change our Zimbabwean Fashion Industry and further elevate it to international standards?
Ok, the fashion industry is cutthroat! I’ve seen it. Designers compete with other designers, models can be catty and bloggers want the best story. So really it takes a whole combination of everyone to contribute in a positive manner so that the industry benefits and not just the individual themselves. I think there is need to re-focus ourselves, try to understand what we are working for and why we are even working in fashion to begin with. Egos need to be set aside and that includes our differences; no stereotyping whatsoever! I’ve noticed a lot of people tend to rush their fashion dream, but I believe in taking baby steps. I mean look at me I’m in my late 20s but I started sewing in high school! So taking your time and building yourself and your brand is very important. And finally branching out- a lot of people know Zimbabwean fashion under Harare. What about Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and even Masvingo?! They all fall under Zimbabwe. Yes I know resources maybe scarce but at least connecting with other regions or individuals in those regions is always a good start.


So this is Natasha Theresa Kagoro of Black Excellence. She is a daughter, sister, mother and an emerging designer. I’m very proud to say this was my first candid, one-on-one interview, and just by spending two hours with her I learnt a lot that I hadn’t imagined. This is one of many growing designers in our country and I would love for you to read and get acquainted with our amazing fashion, as much as I had enjoyed interviewing her and documenting this.

Natasha's sophisticated ensemble for our interview. A green sleeveless cowl blouse with those brown structured pants i loved from FWZ.
To contact Black Excellence and Natasha herself, check out the following links;

Yours in Glamour,

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