Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Local Lovely Flavour: Interview with Takudzwa Edmond Chikumbirike

Takudzwa Edmond Chikumbirike was the only male finalist for Fashion Weekend Zimbabwe’s 2013 evening gala and the one designer that reached out to me for an interview. I was soo glad because I felt honoured that someone wanted to share their story with me and the blog. Our meeting was on a Friday in the Harare CBD, with Edmond having travelled straight from Bindura that morning, (he was once again the only finalist in FWZ 2013 that was based outside Harare, residing from Bindura). At the time of entering the competition, Edmond was a student, pursuing his Advanced level at Chipadze High School back in Bindura.
Meeting Edmond was a breath of fresh air because he was soo bubbly, excited and young. You could tell the gentleman had determination in his eyes because at the age of 18 years, he has managed to jump start his fashion career as a designer!

Although there was a bit of miscommunication to our meeting venue (my misunderstanding on my part), here is how the interview went;

Edmond's Ensemble for our interview. Head to toe are his creations from House of Azalion.
Who is Takudzwa Edmond?
Edmond is young, fun and fearless, independent! I come from Bindura, the suburban part of the area and come from a family of four children; with me being the oldest. I’ve an artistic background within the family because my father is a sculptor and my brother is an artist (Art student at Chipadze High School).

And your birth date?
I’m 18 years old, turning 19 on the 18th of April *too cute if I must say*

*At this point he admits how excited he was to meet me and wasn't sure if I would yes or no to meeting him to which I replied I was glad he reached out to me!*

So let’s talk about your brand a little bit more, I know its House of Azalion, but what is it all about?
Well, House of Azalion is a local brand which is for tailor made clothing. My label embodies Edgy, Classic and Elegant which caters for both teenagers and young adults, both male and female. Edgy represents the young and fearless person (which is also an inclusion of a part of me). A lot of the edgy part has to do with street wear. The Classic and Elegant are a combination of vintage inspiration. Azalion is actually “As A Lion”, a lot of it represents my fearless personality.

*At this point he eagerly begins to share his experience of FWZ 2013, and our conversation quickly turns to the event.*

Let’s talk about Fashion Weekend Zimbabwe; the event must have been a stepping-stone for you?
Yes, it was my first event ever! And I was soo happy that I was shortlisted! My journey to fashion started in 2012 when I was doing my lower 6. Before that I was inspired by music especially Gospel and Hip hop, and I had started writing my own music in Form 3. Fashion however, was always there because I had started designing in Form 3 as well but just as a side project. I never really thought I would pursue it because there was no support at home from the family, but I did however used to love Civvies day at school because it was the only time I would really dress up and be quirky. Everyone at school thought I was weird or kamu “salad”.

My fashion journey therefore officially began in Lower 6 when I sent in my applications for Zimbabwe Fashion Week 2012, and didn't get a response. At the time I didn't know that ZFW even existed! I only knew of South African shows and stuff. Then in my first term of Upper 6 I saw FWZ in the newspaper and I thought to myself; wow, there are more of these shows in Zimbabwe! (When you live outside of Harare a lot these things don’t come your way nor do we even know about them! So if you are not well vested or up to date with media you miss out). So I sent in my application for Fashion Weekend Zim and got a reply that I was shortlisted for the 45 designers! I was very excited but also very scared because I wondered to myself if I will make it into the top 14. On the day of the Designer Interviews I arrived late to the interviews in Belvedere due to transport problems coming from Bindura. I remember I arrived about 30 minutes before the closing time. I was quite disappointed with myself but at the same time I told myself to give it my best, and to my surprise by Monday morning the following week my name was on the Top 8 finalists! I was just overjoyed.

Model Loshanda wears a House of Azalion dress early this year in the FWZ 2013 Lookbook.
And your fashion journey officially began…?
Yes for me my fashion journey officially started. My parents started to see how serious I was about this, but more so they were worried as to how I would keep up with school because I commuted from Bindura every weekend for the Designer Workshops by Alliance Fran├žaise. *he mentions here how he loved Alliance Fran├žaise especially with the graffiti on the wall, I added on by saying I did my French diploma there! And Edmond gave me the biggest hug!* I felt a bit overwhelmed because I was in the same classroom every Saturday with Nikko Frikko and Samantha Dika who are beautiful and yet strong women. I felt like they knew what they were doing and I didn’t. For me the mentorship program opened up my mind and a lot of doors for me. I did my first television interview on ZTV, (which unfortunately I never got to watch), and a part of me feels like I’m now somebody because people are now confident in me. Even my family now asks me for fashion advice before leaving the house!

With all that you have learned from FWZ, I want to know what your potential future plans are for 2014 and beyond.
Well I obviously plan to go to fashion school. I’m not sure how, but I plan to. I already know the basics of sewing and pattern making and cutting, which I taught myself way before FWZ so I would love to perfect that. I also plan on creating a fashion house someday; I’m still young and have soo much time to perfect my work so in the near future a fashion house is a definite plan. And for 2014, I want to partake in Zimbabwe Fashion Week under the Young Designers Programme (YDP), because I think I’m no longer an emerging designer; I’ve already done that for FWZ. Although I’m a bit sceptical about ZFW 2014 due to no finances at the moment.

Now back to your label, what inspires you as a fashion designer?
My overall inspiration is mainly European-American fashion. I can’t really say I’m 100% all African because I occasionally mix in an African essence, but my inspiration is vintage western clothing and glamour. I’m also inspired by Harare especially the suburbs in Harare because the youngsters are not afraid to wear whatever they want because its fashion and they can express themselves. It’s different from where I come from because fashion isn't really that important. So the Edgy part of my label is inspired by the urban wear in Harare.

What sets your fashion label different from the rest?
When I’m designing I can put anything on paper. I’m really into vintage pieces so I try to cater for the consecutive and non-consecutive individuals; hence the Edgy, Classic and Elegant.

And who is your absolute style icon?
My absolute style icon is South-African designer David Tlale! But I’ve more than one style icon; Marilyn Monroe, Victoria Beckham and Jennifer Aniston all embody Old Hollywood style for me.

What is your biggest fashion pet peeve as a fashion designer?
COLOUR-BLOCKING! The trend started in Europe in like 2010, and here in Zimbabwe there are still some people who are colour blocking.

And your must have fashion accessory?
Turbans! I love turbans on women, always have and always will. Actually for FWZ I wanted my models to wear turbans with their looks, but unfortunately it didn't happen. I love turbans on the runway, in magazines and on the television.

A Turban incorporated into his sketches.
Before we officially round up our interview, I want to know do you have a quote or philosophy you live by?
 Yes, I have one. It goes like this; “Stay away from people that try to belittle your ambitions. And keep up looking at the great, for they make you feel that you can also be great.”

Last but least, do you have any last words about the Zimbabwe Fashion Industry? What do you think needs to be done to give it a strong boost?
As a designer I think there are a lot of weaknesses in the industry. To begin with the fabrics in general are just poor. Most of the fabrics or patterns are either very cheap quality or really expensive or you really can’t even find both. The fashion shows need a lot more work, because they don’t have an impact. The fashion show comes and quickly goes, unlike in South Africa for instance we continue to talk about them months later!


The only male finalist for Fashion Weekend Zimbabwe 2013.
So this interview introduced us to Takudzwa Edmond Chikumbirike, the only gentleman in FWZ 2013 and one whom was representing Bindura. Edmond’s love for fashion is young, fresh and exciting because he is excited to share his creations. Edmond’s enthusiasm is so exciting so much so that I think it’s a great idea to help him get into Zimbabwe Fashion Week 2014 this year. I don’t know how, and there is no full proof plan but if you read this interview and like what you see, and have the resources to help him; then please come forward and do so. Let’s get our designers on the right boat they deserve to be sailing on!

To contact House of Azalion, check out their Facebook page here.

Yours in True Glamour,

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