Tanya Mushayi is the young Zimbabwean designer building her brand through social media. The fashion fanatic started out making clothes for herself wearing her own designs and blogging about them. Now her label is one of the favorites amongst Zimbabwe’s style savvy crowd.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I’d describe my fashion style as bohemian girl meets art deco-esque Afrocentric woman.
What inspired you to start Tanya Nefertari?
When I first moved back to Zimbabwe, I came across the brightly colored kitenge fabrics (a kitenge or chitenge is an African garment similar to a sarong, often worn by women wrapped around the chest or waist) that were worn by older women around Harare and the prints were gorgeous. I thought to myself I wouldn’t mind a a dress using one of those fabrics. The first piece I made was a wrap dress and I posted the image on Twitter and my blog. Several people started requesting for me to make them one too and I guess I had a “light bulb” moment & identified a gap in the market, the rest is history.
What sets Zimbabwean fabrics and traditional designs apart from the flood of West African ankara products flooding the market?
I can’t speak for Zimbabwe cause the designers here are very different, but what sets my designs from the traditional designs flooding the market is that I use and source all types of fabrics and prints. As a surface designer I’m drawn to print, any type of print my designs are not exclusive to “African” print and my work is very clean cut and retro.
How has your background in art and surface design helped you in your design process?
My background in art & surface design has helped my design process in the sense that I try to always work outside the box. Mixing prints and colours that shouldn’t be mixed & designing shapes & cuts you wouldn’t normally see on print for example mixing prints, use of different textures and even using canvas fabric on a dress.
How has social media helped you build your brand?
I owe a lot to social media. They are also cost effective for my bottom line as a business trying to make a profit. For a small start-up business like mine without a marketing budget, this makes a vast difference. When used correctly & strategically you can get a wider reach & audience. The trick is to figure out if people are being receptive or not to your work. The close contact to customer feedback is a bonus. It isn’t easy though, it’s a lot of time, work, brainstorming and data
What challenges have you faced in starting Tanya Nefertari?
My biggest challenge is financial. One challenge in starting Tanya Nefertari is that I’d like to take the label to international levels but showcasing at fashion shows around the world is so expensive, it’s not cost effective as yet. That’s why I’ve concentrated more on getting product out there before indulging in the glitz and glam side of it all. Another challenge has been not being able to fully use ecommerce channels like eBay or paypal on my website which would fully utilize the World Wide Web globalization.
Do you have any advice for young Africans hoping to start a business?
My advice would be first identify a gap in the market, your unique selling point & study your economic climate of the market you’re selling to. There’s no point in having crazy prices when the ability to earn is almost zero. For instance with high unemployment that we are currently experiencing the buying power is very low. My last bit of advice is that few people ever know what they’re doing till they do it, don’t be scared to fail it’s part of the learning process you’ll be fine.