Ahead of the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards scheduled for 28 April which we’re proud media partners for, this week we continue our interview with nominees in the Fashion Designer and Urban Fashion Design categories for this year’s awards. Today we bring you our chat with Tawanda Blessing Mukada of Manicawear, an urban and cultural clothing line that’s an innovative response to the demands of the contemporary consumer. A dynamic and inspiring urban designer, Tawanda talks to FAB editor-in-chief Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo about the familiar faces of Hackney, the inspiration that is Strive Masiyiwa of Econet and the brand new labels he’s set to unleash on to the world of urban fashion.
As we continue to bring you our exclusive interviews with all the nominees, don’t forget to visit the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards website to purchase your tickets for the event at the prestigious The Grange Tower Hill and to view and vote for nominees in fashion and all other categories.
Tell us a little about your brand and its history?
Manicawear is an urban and cultural clothing line, that’s an innovative response to the demands of the contemporary consumer. It’s established by me, Tawanda Blessing Mukada in September 2009. At this time I was studying for a diploma in Applied Science at Hackney Community College. Manicawear Clothing is an award winning clothing line that rose to fame last year (2011), after a successful launch to our most anticipated urban brands, King of Swagger and Queen of Swagger.
I established Manicawear because I’m so passionate about fashion. I grew up as an art person, I am way too creative when it comes to art, and it all began from when I was at primary school. As I grew older, as a teenager, I discovered how fashion and my creativity in art complemented each other, therefore I decided to study fashion and fabrics at secondary school level, which led me into establishing our very own Manicawear Clothing Inc.
Before establishment, when I thought about how we are wearing labels that are of American origin (the likes of Sean John, Tommy Hilfiger, etc.), and not of African origin, I asked why I can’t do my own. Technically, I carried out a research, which took 5 months. I discovered the likes of Terrie Gunz with his Harare Hustler movement, and Efrijah Gray Rwangah with his Blackarmoor movement. Within 5 months of thorough research I discovered many clothing lines of African origin. That gave me confidence. I believed in my passion for fashion, and came to a conclusion.
In September 2009 I launched Manicawear Clothing Inc. Having to wear my very own brand to college is what amazed me. On my way to college many people would ask me where I bought my t-shirts and I would answer them with passion, “It’s all done by me”. People from my local town of Hackney showed me and my clothing line support. As far as I can remember I made 10 t-shirts and gave each to familiar “faces of Hackney”, including bartenders, storekeepers, and a few colleges friends. By the end of week 52 Manicawear was the talk of the town. Everyone was keen to know what Manicawear meant. It gave me strength and began the operation, making more t-shirts, hoodies and a lot more winter wear. I dedicated myself to the fashion industry.
Manicawear is derived from the name Manicaland, which is amongst Zimbabwe’s 8 provinces located to the eastern borders of Zimbabwe, towards Mozambique. I’m originally from this eastern province.
Manicawear’s creations aren’t just for the purpose of building a stronger financial nerve for ourselves, but it is also our pleasure to reflect a well-constructed, positive image of Africa that’s not recognised by many. Our clothing line was established to showcase the beauty of Africa; many of you will get a clear picture of this through our African Heritage brand. We’ve managed to work with people from various occupations and cultural backgrounds e g models, artists, business people, Africans, Brazilians, Asians, and Europeans etc. Many people have managed to represent their country of origin through fashion; at Manicawear we are the essential tool to such field.
What are some of the design aesthetics of your brand?
It is the way I transform local language into a clothing brand. I use regional “technical” word to create a brand that every individual would fall in love with. Manicawear’s F.O.N.A & P.O.Z.A clothing brands will highlight this. As a designer I intend to get a brand designed to impress the public, a brand that visually communicates with the members of the public and catch their attention. King & Queen of Swagger brands were created following the phrases used to define 21st century fashion.
Describe the Manicawear guy or girl.
A Manicawear guy/girl is gonna have to be someone who is simple. An individual who fears God and appreciates what God has done for him/her, someone who believes that she/he is special in his/her own way. A Manicawear guy would have to be someone who is loving and treats women fairly at all times, not the one that would abuse them and call them names. A Manicawear girl would’ve to be (a Bhundu girl) a natural girl who is serious about life, and the one who’s truly, and proudly African.
Where do you draw your inspirations from?
I’m inspired by hardworking and successful entrepreneurs. Most individuals from the black community who made it in life are the ones that inspired me most, the likes of Strive Masiyiwa, The FUBU founders, Alex Of Alecool Clothing, Terrie Gunz, Blackarmoor founder Efrijah Rwangah, my grandparents who run an empire of businesses within the Retail and transport sector and lot more.
It is through belief, hope and passion for what you know you can do best. I’m amazed by how people like Strive Masiwa have managed to build such a business empire across the world. It all started from nothing and years later he’ made an impressive expansion to his business across the world. The business empire is still expanding, reaching areas within South America, East Asian Pacific. Econet Wireless is now operating within the UK and it’s still expanding.
Because of Strive Masiyiwa’s success, I believed in myself. He inspired me most. I know for a certain that I’m passionate about fashion, therefore I shall succeed. It’s through the Econet Wireless boss’s success that inspired me. It made realise that Nike or Adidas empire was never built in a day.
Who are some of the Manicawear ambassadors?
There is a whole bunch of them from across the UK and from other parts of the world including Australia, USA etc. We’ve worked with different people from all walks of life, e g artists, underground film directors, composed of artists, DJs, London bus drivers, Transport For London undercover ticket inspectors. Many African, UK based artists supporting the label includes Kest (RNDP artist, my brother from another mother who’s supported me from day 1), Mr Hunts(C.E.O and Founder of Psych Wear & HLM Entertainment), Dubbie Benz, Money B(R U NUTZ CLOTHING Record Label Founder and C.E.O), Tracy Chanda (Scotland based Zambian pop artists, who once appear on the UK pop contest show X-Factor), and models including Tafadzwa Jambwa, a UK based Zimbabwean model whose future as a professional model looks promising, She holds the Ms Zimbabwe UK 2010 “First Princess” title, & Ms African Spirit 2011 “Second Princess” title.
To my belief, everyone who wears any of our clothing is Manicawear’s ambassador. This is because these individuals wear our clothing with passion and expose our brands to the members of the public. Therefore warrants them, Manicawears’ ambassador’s status.
And who would you like to see wearing your label?
Mostly people from my community, any African, the ghetto youths from across the globe, many of them have been amazing to me. These are the people supporting the movement, without them Manicawear is an empty vessel. It makes me smile coming across someone on a daily basis on the 106 bus in Hackney or on the Piccadilly line underground train wearing what I’ve designed. It makes me proud of myself. On the other side I would like to see household names in the music and fashion industry wearing my label, the likes of Major E, P Diddy, Sean Paul, Tu-Short, Mary J, 50 Cent, Jay Z, Winky Dee, Cynthia Mare, Money B, Boy Retonaz, Eric Knight, Oliver Mtukudzi, Bkay ‘N’ Kazz, Blue Inc Founders (it’s high times they get to wear my own brands, I have been wearing theirs for ages), Tinnie Tempah, Skepta, Kano, Alex Magaisa, Betty Makoni, Eve Parkes, Tim Westwood, Tinchy Stryder, Ironik, My uni lecturer (Dr P Klappa), JME, Dj FrenchKiss, Scorcher, Chipmunk, and Wretch 32.
These guys are role models, almost every fashion accessory they buy and wear everyone would want to buy and wear it to too. To myself seeing any of these guys wearing my label would make me proud of myself as a hardworking African child.
Where can fans of Manicawear buy your creations?
They can order their product of interest directly from me via email, Facebook, twitter, or by phone.
- FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/MANICAWEARKoSB
- TWITTER: @TawazManicawear
We got our website under construction, and it’ll soon be launched. In London they can visit French Kiss shop, located in East London, Hackney, Upper Clapton. French Kiss is a unique place any young person can visit and enjoy themselves. They provide many services including a highly qualified barbers and hairdressers, best selection of the latest music, a recording studio, and a personalised t-shirt printing service. It appeals to a variety of young people. You are bound to find what you need there.
How does it feel being nominated in the urban fashion category of the ZAAs and what would it mean to win this award?
Being a Zimbabwe Achievers Award Urban fashion Designer nominee, it means so much to as an individual. It’s something I could have never imagined. I’m honoured and humbled being a nominee in this category. It makes me feel like a million dollar instrument to the Zimbabwean community across the globe. It drives me to a platform where I feel more than precious to Manicawears’ fans; those individuals that nominated Manicawear and organisations in partnership with Manicawear. Being a Nominee for this special category, gives me more energy; and to my opinion it’s an everlasting fuel to my journey as an urban fashion designer. It’s an opportunity for Manicawear to further engage with the Zimbabwean community across the globe.
Winning this award would mean the world to me. Many people who never appreciate your brands or works would get to a point of appreciating what you’re injecting into the community as an individual. They will support you as from the period they realise how you are making them proudly Zimbabwean and years beyond.
What’s next in 2012 and beyond for your label?
I’m looking into moving a step further and be the leading African urban fashion wear supplier within the UK, and internationally. You shall see more Manicawear branded clothing on the market across the UK.
This coming summer we’re proudly presenting the King of Swagger and Queen of Swagger, our main clothing brands. In November 2012, we’re going to unleash our best urban winter wear; unseen brands such as Zimbo$$, Zimbillionaire, Zimbarbie etc. 2012, is going to be a year of memories. The good news to our customers from across the globe is that, we’re going to launch our online store, before the end of this, which is something we’re really excited about.
As a clothing line that’s recognised by many across London and cities beyond, we’re looking into working with other clothing lines including Psych Wear (a South East London based urban fashion wear ;clothing line, that’s under the management of Mr Hunts who is the C.E.O and founder of HLM Entertainment). We are also looking into working with one of Ghana’s UK based DJs, whose career as a DJ and business person is way beyond successful, Dj FrenchKiss.
By 2013, Manicawear is looking into expand its empire into Zimbabwe, and SA. We’ll be working in association with Shakestone Record Label under the management of T.K Hollun; who is amongst most successful Zimbabwean Musicians across SA.
And our classic question with a twist: What is FAB about being Zimbabwean?
Having to realise that Zimbabwe has one of the 7 wonders of the world, it makes me proud to be Zimbabwean. We do have Great Zimbabwe, a world heritage site visited by many architects from across the world. It is the largest stone structure in Africa and outside Egypt, the largest ancient stone structure in sub-Saharan Africa. Great Zimbabwe was known to be the capital of a vast gold and ivory trading empire in the 14th/15th century. This is what makes it FAB about being Zimbabwean.
As Zimbabweans we’re blessed, because every place you’re to visit in this world, you’ll always come across a Zimbabwean. When we gather at events we respect one another. We’re peaceful people and we value our tradition. We’re all hard working, and it makes me proud to be Zimbabwean.