“I just want to create work I can be proud of and carve out a legacy that leaves a lasting impression on Zimbabwean surface design.” That’s the first thing the Founder of Tanya Nefertari, a radically unique design brand based in Harare, Zimbabwe blurted out to me before our chat fully started.
You don't need to be a maverick or a first- mover to succeed in Africa anymore. According to the World Bank, the average annual growth rate across the continent is around five percent, and the risk-to-reward ratio is much lower than it once was. Many African fashion businesses, large and small, are both innovative and profitable — but most will continue to underperform if they remain unplugged from the global fashion grid. Fortunately, at this juncture, support from the right international partners has the potential to pay dividends for investors and local businesses alike. However, Tanya Nefertari has gone against the grain of this statement and now her brand has become a household name amongst Zimbabwe's fashion bloggers and unique stylists.
Tanya Nefertari has always had a fascination with Ancient Kemet history and that’s what influenced her to mix her Shona name with her obsession with Kemet. I let her tell me a little bit about that; "Tanya being the short version of my first name, that is Tanyaradzwa which means ‘we have been consoled,' and Nefertari came from an Egyptian Queen and the first of the Great Royal Wives of Ramesses the Great. Nefertari means 'Beautiful Companion.' Therefore, morphing both names allowed the genesis of Tanya Nefertari which sums up to saying ‘a beautiful companion has consoled us.’ That's how I want people to feel when they wear my brand. Liberated. Extraordinary. Unique."
She trailed off, and then excitedly added, "And, daring, of course!"
It was kind of interesting to listen to someone who speaks about fashion with such depth, considering her location is not one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s Fashion Capitals, Industry Hubs or Centres of Style according to the business of fashion. Which hasn't stopped her, as she continues to derive inspiration from the art deco movement across the continent, that consists of bright colors, textured fabrics, and western African signature pieces.
After listening and understanding her viewpoint, I was curious to know if what she studied might have been a sway for her to start her brand, as well as when she realized that fashion was her passion. She had this to say; “Yes it did, I studied Art and Design for three years straight out of high school then studied a Bachelor of Arts of Surface Design in Interiors and Fashion at Huddersfield University situated in the United Kingdom.”
Confidently continuing by saying; “I wouldn't call it a passion for fashion. I feel it puts me in a box. I'm passionate about everything in design in general. I hated fashion; I was a bit of a fashion rebel growing up. I didn't like to follow trends, so when I chose the course, I wanted to do, picking Art and Design was my way of filling myself within the design spectrum and the no limitations of it all.”
It wouldn’t be a short piece about Tanya Nefertari if I didn’t ask about her fashion season inspirations, and she had this to say; “Since I'm in Harare, I only recognize two seasons when I design. I work around Winter and Summer clothing mostly outerwear which I love making in variations of thickness depending on the season. The other designs I make are mostly limited runs of unique dresses and tops profoundly influenced by my personal style artsy-bohemian with a dash of Afrocentricism.”
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