WASHINGTON, DC —
Competitive fashion shows are increasingly common in Zimbabwe, fueled by the country’s own home grown designers, who have embarked on bold but stylish fashion wear for those with a high sense of style and money to burn.
Among the male designers making inroads in the country’s burgeoning fashion industry, is 31-old, Harare-based Colin Ratisai, who described himself as a “very chilled” kind of designer. He said he picked up the skill at a young age from his sister.
“My eldest sister studied textile designs and went on to be a fashion designer,” explained Ratisai, who is the last born of three children. “She then got married and got out of the house and I think I had a good hand to take over what she was doing.”
Zimbabwean designers like Ratisai have been showcasing their fashions at such events as the recently held Zimbabwe Fashion Week in the U.K., and the upcoming one in Harare in September.
“As a designer, I am specializing in like high-fashion, and haute couture and with extravagant dresses.” But he’s real strength and niche, he explained, is “with theatre costumes for stage musicians and performers.”
Ratisai, who designs both men and women’s clothing, said he gets his inspiration for designs from what he sees everyday around him. However, he doesn’t mince his words about the fact that his designs are not for the mass market, or those on a tight budget.
He said his clothes are for those who discretionary funds to spare, “who understand the value of the fashion, the fabric, the texture.” In other words, “an expensive taste,” he said, with a laugh.
Zimbabwe is another source of inspiration for his designs, Ratisai further said, adding that he wants his work to reflect that, through the use of the style or colors. Some of fabrics closely resemble the country’s flag.
“Well, Zimbabwe is where I am, that’s definitely my inspiration, and its nice, the greens and the yellows, and sort of the earth tones that come through, are flowers around them.” He clarified however, that the colors are more universal than Zimbabwe. “I’m not even thinking about the flag sometimes, I’m thinking Africa.”
He said his love for the country will ensure that he keeps a base there, no matter how far his designs take him, internationally.
I’ll be very happy to have two or three boutiques around different countries that I feel like I want to be in, and also definitely the main base of the studio being in Zimbabwe.”
Despite Zimbabwe’s high unemployment levels that have driven millions into the informal sector, many would think delving into the fashion industry – considered a luxury market – particularly at this time, might be a wrong move. But Ratisai said that’s not the case.
“Fashion is all over Harare and Zimbabwe. There are lots of young designers coming up, there’s a lot of different styles, and talent of the young designers, there’s lots of creativity in the fashion industry, there are a lot of fashion shows happening as well.”
He said though Zimbabwean designers are gaining recognition, more publicity would help grow the industry even more.
“We need the support from everyone, in Zimbabwe and from like, Studio 7!”
Though he designs for high spenders, Colin Ratisai said at its core, fashion is really about style, and everyone can have it, on a high or low budget.