Contrary to belief, some local boutiques and fashion shops are selling apparel created by local designers.
This came to light during a mini fashion show that took place in the capital on Thursday where Cynthia Bizure-Sithole founder of Jan Jam revealed that she sells blazers and waistcoats designed by locals.
“I work with guys like Tapfumanei Munenge, who does shirts and trousers, Ngoni Motsi of Chena Neni brands and Ishmael. Our industry really has a bright future, especially now that opportunities to spread our wings are beckoning,” said Cynthia.
Having established a solid footing on the local market, Jan Jam is about to go global as plans to set up shop in Dubai are in the pipeline. This could mean that local designers’ creations could end up in Jan Jam shops in Dubai and other places — further opening avenues for the growth of the sector.
“There are people that I met during my travels overseas that I have shown what we are doing here and they are interested in partnering us so if all goes well next year we will be opening another shop in Dubai,” she said.
The fashion show held by Jan Jam proves that the local fashion industry might be lagging behind but what cannot be disputed is that it is growing despite the numerous challenges the sector faces.
From designers to retailors, there has been vast improvement in the quality of products being made available on the fashion market. Celebrities from the music industry, socialites and businesspeople including competitors graced the fashion show. Cynthia said that while the fashion show they held was meant to push the products they had for local consumers, they were also using it as a platform to show their foreign partners what they were capable of.
“Our partners wanted to see how we do our fashion shows and we gave them this snippet. Next year, this show will be bigger and better if the response we have received from our partners in Dubai and China is anything to go by.
“However, besides proving that we can stage successful fashion shows and that we have capable designers locally — this was actually an opportunity for us to give local customers what we have in stock. While we have so much stuff on offer, it’s unfortunate that we cannot put everything on the show so we selected just a few.” Despite the Dubai expansion, there have also been people in the region who have tried to forge partnerships with the Jan Jam brand.
“I have had calls from people in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia who want us to licence them so that they run their own Jan Jams in those countries but it is something that I had not considered.
“I really don’t have the expertise in how these things really work, but we are now looking into it with our legal team, other directors and advisers. I would love to try it out,” she said. Despite the fact that local fashion designers are creating impressive products and slowly making inroads with retailers such as Jan Jam – there has been a minimal presence of their clothes in major retail shops.
Jan Jam has worked with several local designers on numerous projects and its founder highlighted some of the challenges they had in pushing their products.
“We have many talented designers in Zimbabwe but the problem is our consumers are always looking out for current global trends, which means that if a designer makes a suit that looks like the trending Giorgio Armani, people will buy. “The problem is that when a designer tries to explore new territory, people tend to shun it because they want things they are used to, clothes they have seen on TV or in magazines, it seems like no one wants to be different,” she explained.
Jan Jam, however, has several products in their shops that are being made by local fashion designers.
“There is a guy named Ishmael who has made waistcoats for us which were actually better than the ones we were importing. Ngoni Motsi, who has the Chena Neni brand has also done amazing blazers for us, so at the end of the day you realise that we have many talented designers out there.”
With the Zimbabwe Fashion Week in hibernation — it is the small fashion shows like the one held by Jan Jam that have kept the industry afloat. Another fashion show involving a number of designers was expected to be held last night.
Among those expected to showcase at The Style Concierge, with their summer and spring collections at The Flame are Nompumelelo Marilyn Samambgwa of Noe eS, Shadia Esen of Bahia Luz, Ngoni Motsi of Chenna Nenni and Chantelle Tatenda Mahachi of Zanorashe.