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Sandra Awino Odino – Talks About Being a Model & Entrepreneur in Kenya

From frequenting Kenya’s high-fashion runways, interior designing and owning her own hair extensions brand, professional model and entrepreneur, Sandra Awino Odino, tells us about her journey to becoming the power house that she is.

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Sandra Awino Odino - Talks About Being a Model & Entrepreneur in Kenya Asante Afrika Magazine
Sandra Awino Odino
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From frequenting Kenya’s high-fashion runways, interior designing and owning her own hair extensions brand, professional model and entrepreneur, Sandra Awino Odino, tells us about her journey to becoming the power house that she is.  

Sandra Awino Odino - Talks About Being a Model & Entrepreneur in Kenya Asante Afrika Magazine
Sandra Awino Odino

Tell us about your journey in the modelling industry. When did you decide you want to be a model and how did you manage to break into the industry?

I started modelling when i was in high school and after high school i got scouted, trained and signed to a modelling agency. Afterwards, I went for A LOT of auditions and finally booked my first runway show which was an international show and the rest is history.

What do you enjoy most about being a model?

I enjoy dressing up, taking pictures, walking down different runways, traveling, meeting new people and bringing a designer’s idea to life.

Sandra Awino Odino - Talks About Being a Model & Entrepreneur in Kenya Asante Afrika Magazine

What are the highlights of your career? What big events have you taken part in and which designers in Kenya have you worked with?

I got to work for African Fashion Fair , Swahili Fashion Week, The AngelsHair Show, Kenya Fashion Week, The Wedding Fair by Kempinski, Afro Hair Show, and The Blue Economy Fashion Show, where I got to meet the President of Kenya and other dignitaries from around the world. I have worked with some of the best designers such as Chela Seurei, Sally Karago, Lucy Rao, Peggy Onyango, Shenu Hooda, Sharon Wendo of Epica Jewellery, Neema Nkatha, Idah Aluoch, Aisha Rotich, and Loise Adhiambo, just to name a few.

What are the challenges faced in the modelling industry in Kenya and what do you think can/should be done to improve on those?

Some of the challenges I face in the modelling industry are that the pay is not so good, or sometimes we don’t get paid at all, scarcity of the jobs etc. I think the modelling agencies should protect models by getting them legitimate jobs which would extremely help the models to become financially independent. Agencies should also stand up for models and fight for their rights.

I also wish that international agencies would do more recruitment of Kenyan models, because the talent here is abundant. Most of us want to go international, but breaking through that glass ceiling is very tough. It would be really great if more international agencies came to scout in Kenya.

Sandra Awino Odino - Talks About Being a Model & Entrepreneur in Kenya Asante Afrika Magazine
Sandra Awino Odino

You also work as an interior designer. Tell us more about that. When and how did you get into that industry? What kind of services/products do you provide?

Yes I work also as an interior designer and it has always been my passion to beautify spaces and transform houses into homes. I studied interior Design at El Interior Designers and afterwards I started practicing it. The services i provide are soft furnishings, consulting, wallpaper installation and upholstery.

Apart from being a model and interior designer, you also own your own brand of hair extensions. Can you tell us how that came to be and what inspired your decision to start selling your own hair extensions? Do you produce them or do you have a supplier? Who is your target market?

Yes my hair extension line is called Rubellite Extensions and I have had the idea for almost a year now. I decided to take a leap of faith and I did it. What inspired the idea of my hairline is that I wanted women to look great. Hence, if you are called for an impromptu event, you can simply lay your hair clip-on of my extension and you are good to go. I have a supplier who provides me with the extensions and my target market is ladies who are 18-60 years old.

Sandra Awino Odino - Talks About Being a Model & Entrepreneur in Kenya Asante Afrika Magazine
Rubellite Hair Extensions
Sandra Awino Odino - Talks About Being a Model & Entrepreneur in Kenya Asante Afrika Magazine
Rubellite Hair Extensions Campaign

In April this year you embarked on an extraordinary project which was photographically documenting how black women are normally not used by big companies in Kenya when advertising cosmetics. Can you tell us more about that project and did it achieve the desired results?

For some time I noticed that various companies in Kenya were using only white models on their billboards, and so I called some of my friends and we came up with a mood board. We then did a photoshoot which we wanted people of colour to relate to, and the outcome was OUTSTANDING. Unfortunately we did not get the results we were hoping for because soon after, the pandemic had hit the country hard and there was a total lockdown. So we have had such a hard time pitching our idea to the targeted companies. It was an exciting experience though, and I learnt so much from it.

You are an enterprising woman. What drives you and motivates you to be so entrepreneurial and how do you balance your business ventures and your personal life?

My drive and motivation comes from my mother; she is an amazing role model and she inspires and encourages me to not stop until I achieve all my dreams. My family is very supportive of what I do so it makes it easier for me to balance my business and personal life.

Sandra Awino Odino - Talks About Being a Model & Entrepreneur in Kenya Asante Afrika Magazine

What are your parting words for the young African upcoming model and entrepreneur?

Put God first! If you can’t stop talking about it, don’t stop working for it. Believe in yourself and NEVER give up.

Follow Sandra on IG @lasandrah254 and @rubellite_extensions

Image Credits

👗: @afrovazidesignhouse; 📷 @afrikanfilmstudio, jkiragu; Jewellery 💍: @Frankartscreations; 💄: Mutisya H, Sharon Atieno, mdeizimakeup; Hair: @rickykish

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

Fashion & Beauty

Girl vs Fro: A Lazy Natural’s Guide to Conquering Wash Day

Your natural hair journey is one that’s unique to you, and finding out what methods and potions work for you is part of the fun!

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Girl vs Fro: A Lazy Natural's Guide to Conquering Wash Day Asante Afrika Magazine
🖼In frame IG @official_adjo 📸Image shot by IG @justshootitnana #Ghana
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Tiisetso Muloyi

Stop! That’s it sis, back away from the shears! Cutting all that gravity-defying hair would be a crime to the natural hair gawds. A most punishable offence! Trust me, I know wash-day is no walk in the park, but Aunty TT’s got your back!

As my natural hair journey has progressed over the years, I’ve been all types of natural. I’ve been the novice, the professional big chopper, the kinky curly guru and of course, the “if-all-else-fails-we’ll-just-go-full-on-bald-baddie-mode-like-Nandi-Madida. But, alas the shape of my significantly larger head doesn’t grant me the same freedoms (and yes, having a big noggin makes for a rather taxing wash day) – but, no stubborn ‘fro formed against us shall prosper!

As of late, however, I find myself settling into the role of the dreaded lazy natural – and you know what? That’s okay! Our hair isn’t our number one priority and it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t mean we should completely abandon it though either.

Through the love-hate relationship (me showering my hair with endless love and affection while it continues to fight me at every turn) I’ve formed with my hair, I’ve learned that sometimes what’s good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander. What I mean by this is that, what may work for other naturals, may not necessarily work for you, and that’s okay too! At the end of the day, your natural hair journey is one that’s unique to you, and finding out what methods and potions work for you is part of the fun!

Here’s Aunty TT’s hacks to a quicker (and happier) wash day:

1. Pre-Poo

And what exactly is the Pre-Poo? The term pre-poo is an abbreviation of pre-shampoo. This is the process of prepping your hair with a hot oil treatment, a conditioner, or a mixture of both, in preparation for shampooing. The purpose of this process is to both protect and strengthen hair from the harsh stripping effects of the shampoo and wash process.

Here’s a few of my absolute fave pre-poo recipes:

a) Coconut Oil & Honey

Girl vs Fro: A Lazy Natural's Guide to Conquering Wash Day Asante Afrika Magazine

A god-sent for dry, brittle hair! Mix a 1/4 cup of warm (not hot! Because nothing screams ‘sexy’ like a 3rd-degree burn) honey, and three tablespoons of warm coconut oil, and then apply to your dry hair before washing.

b) Avocado & Banana

Girl vs Fro: A Lazy Natural's Guide to Conquering Wash Day Asante Afrika Magazine

Combine a ripe avocado and an equally ripe banana. Blend very well until creamy.

Pro-tip: strain the mixture through a cheesecloth, muslin cloth, or a good old pair of stockings, otherwise you’ll be picking bits of banana out of your hair for the foreseeable future. Trust me!

Alternatively, a mask could also be made by mixing a ripe avocado with an egg yolk. Apply to your hair then allow it to sit. It goes without saying that this mask should be washed off using cold water, lest you enjoy an egg scramble in your luscious locks.

2. Shampooing

Dividing your hair into manageable sections makes for a far more effective process. The shorter your ‘fro, the more sections you’ll need, be it 4, 6, 8 and so on. The longer your mane, the less sections required. These sections are paramount when aiding in the detangling process too.

Girl vs Fro: A Lazy Natural's Guide to Conquering Wash Day Asante Afrika Magazine
Image Source: https://www.naturallycurly.com/

Pro-tip: Use a paraben, sulfate and silicone-free shampoo. They’re less harsh on the hair, and they keep the stripping of your natural hair oils to a minimum. Should you have no other choice, make sure to dilute your shampoo with water before applying to the hair. 

3. Detangling

Girl vs Fro: A Lazy Natural's Guide to Conquering Wash Day Asante Afrika Magazine
Image Source: https://www.naturallycurly.com/

Using a product that offers good slip is important here. Without detangling, your natural hair is more prone to breakage, tangling and knotting. And trust me, ain’t nobody got time for that kind of struggle!

Applying a generous amount of your chosen product (albeit your pre-poo, deep conditioners, or hot oil treatments) to your sections, one by one. Make sure your coils are saturated in the product. Gently start detangling from tip to root. Using either your fingers or a wide-tooth comb.

Pro-tip: Sis, as a natural, I implore you; throw away your entire collection of fine-tooth combs. Throw ’em all away!

What helps me keep my hair detangled is how I let it dry afterwards. After thoroughly rinsing out my hair, I make sure my hair is tied in a manner that allows it to dry, stretched out on its own. This could range from using the banding method to simply just leaving it in either the 2 or 3 strand twists that it was washed in, so my hair dries stretched rather than coiled.

4. Styling

Girl vs Fro: A Lazy Natural's Guide to Conquering Wash Day Asante Afrika Magazine
Image Source: https://therighthairstyles.com/

This is where the fun comes in! Let your creativity and personal flair shine through here. Takes risks, accessorise, and have a ball!

Pro-tip: Style your hair in a manner that doesn’t require you to have to constantly restyle your hair throughout the week. Moreover, you can do slight variations of that particular style on your hair during the week.

The puff is the go-to style for lazy naturals worldwide. From the high puff to the low puff, side puff, or the double space puffs. There are plenty of variations to tickle your fancy.

5. Sleeping

Girl vs Fro: A Lazy Natural's Guide to Conquering Wash Day Asante Afrika Magazine
Image Source: https://shoppeblack.us/

The easiest (and by far most enjoyable step of all) is both quick, easy and requires low manipulation to have you in bed quick, fast, and in a hurry!

This is where we work to retain moisture and encourage hair growth while we’re off in la-la land.

And thus, I present to you… the LCO method.

This method involves applying a liquid (leave-in conditioner or moisturizing agent), followed by a cream (such as whipped shea butter, or styling creams) and finished off with an Oil (such as olive oil, or castor oil). Once done, either twist, band, or even pineapple your hair up, and wrap in a satin/silk scarf or bonnet. Done!

Pro-tip: Remember to moisturise your edges too! A dab of Jamaican black castor oil on the perimeter should do the trick!

Figuring out what works for your hair is a process of trial and error – trust me, we’ve all been there sis; but once you’re more comfortable in your ‘fro journey, it gets easier.

That’s it! Hacks to being a lazy natural, and still having healthy hair; K.I.S.S: keep it simple, sexy!

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Zana’Kay Talks About A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, & Why She Chose Architecture

The moment you start discussing or debating on price, know that the value and experience coefficient in your product is losing its foothold.

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Zana'Kay Talks About  A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, & Why She Chose Architecture Asante Afrika Magazine
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Former Miss Zimbabwe 1st Princess, Former Miss Bulawayo 2005, Architect, Poet, Blogger, Cultural Activist, and Founder and Creative Director of the brand ‘A Tribe Called Zimbabwe’ – Nomakhosazana Khanyile Ncube, a.k.a. ‘Zana K’, is doing it all, and she’s just not stopping. The moment she steps into a room, you cannot help but notice and feel her presence. Talking to Zana will leave you feeling enchanted and inspired. She describes her brand as a royal brand, whose thrust is to celebrate Zimbabwean culture and heritage through fashion and architecture. Read on to find out more about this intriguing former beauty queen and intellectual.

Zana'Kay Talks About  A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, & Why She Chose Architecture Asante Afrika Magazine
Zana K

How would you describe yourself? What makes Zana stand out in a crowd? 

I’m an INTJ woman according to the Myer Briggs profile. Introverted, Intuitive and constantly Thinking and Judging. I’m often the silent observer in a crowd, processing as much information as I can gather about the environment and people. Therefore, I love people and the spaces where they are found. I love to learn, observe and study things and people, and I’ve been told I’m a little weird because of this. I guess what also makes me stand out is my somewhat divergent outliers’ perspectives and takes on things. I dress differently, speak differently and see things differently. Perhaps all of these ‘differences’ are manifestations of the curious explorative mind I have. I’d like to think I wear my skeleton on the outside. I’m very cultural and assertive, and that too tends to stand out easily.

What influenced your decision to study architecture?

I loved buildings from a young age, and was fascinated by the art of building or constructing things. I enjoyed making things as a child, and architecture was attractive to me because it offered me the chance to make big things… like buildings.

I, like many people, don’t know much about architecture. In fact, all I know is that one has to do Technical Drawing at school in order to become an Architect. Can you tell us more about your journey to becoming an architect? How easy/difficult was it, and how did you overcome the challenges faced on that journey? 

It’s been a very long journey, one that would fill pages were I to document it. All I can say is I followed my passion, and made sure I gave it my all throughout every step. It’s difficult to be in a male dominated field. Many times, I was an only girl in class, or one of only two females. It’s a competitive environment, and you need tough skin and grit. Architecture is one of the most demanding programs of study at tertiary institutions, because it’s both a science and art subject, and it requires a lot of drawing (technical and creative), making (model building), reading (understanding humanities) and calculating (mathematical and engineering thinking), all simultaneously.

Designing a space for human occupation requires one to think like the proposed users, to imagine function and experience, safety and pleasure, environment and climate, structure and materiality etc. The architect is always thinking about all these things. It’s a discipline that draws on all possible faculties of the mind – so I can say that has helped me to be a multidimensional thinker. Indulging and exploring other art forms like fashion design, poetry and writing, provided the much needed therapy, inspiration and motivation to keep going.  I’m still learning, and it will probably be a life long journey, but it’s definitely one I have enjoyed tremendously thus far.

Zana'Kay Talks About  A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, & Why She Chose Architecture Asante Afrika Magazine
Zana K

How did you merge your love for architecture with your love for fashion design, considering the stark differences in bricks/stone and fabrics? Are the two inter-connected in some way?

Architecture is in essence, the art of creating spaces – habitable spaces, and in my view, fashion is also the art of creating spaces – intimate spaces. Whereas in architecture one would design a space for multiple people or bodies, in fashion, one designs a space for one body, as it were. A garment is inhabited by one body, and a building is a garment that many bodies inhabit. In this regard, I see no difference between the principles in architecture and those in fashion, because both are about tectonics… which is the technique of how materials come together. The same way I envision making art out of how concrete, steel and glass join together to form an aesthetically pleasing building, is the same way I make art out of how cowhide, chiffon, feathers and horns come together to form a beautiful garment.

The simultaneous transition between architecture and fashion for me is easy. The same ‘presence’ and experience I want to create in my architectural spaces, is the same presence I like to invoke in my fashion garments, which is Royalty, and the celebration of rich African/Zimbabwean culture. I love what I do!!!

Zana'Kay Talks About  A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, & Why She Chose Architecture Asante Afrika Magazine
Zana K

You have always been a creative from a young age. What motivated your decision to start your brand, A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, and why using cowhide in particular to make the outfits and accessories?

I realised that there is an urban energy that exists on the continent that is not being branded and packaged into products. There is a profitable opportunity to build an African brand that celebrates Zimbabwe’s new sense of identity and explores creatively what it means to be an African and Zimbabwean in the 21st Century. There is a need for a brand that celebrates the unique and rich heritage and culture of Zimbabweans, and showcases our fashion and architectural identity to the world. Zimbabwe has many tribes; the Ndebele, Kalanga, Fengu, Tonga, Venda, Banyai, Sotho, Shona (which on its own is a name embodying a rich ethnic Bantu people consisting of various tribes, the Zezuru, Rozvi, Korekore, Karanga etc.) Yet there is one thing that we all have in common regarding the things we value, and that is cattle.

Cattle play a very strong role in Zimbabwean society. They are fundamental to our economy, and play very important socio-cultural roles. A Tribe Called Zimbabwe brings us all under that one umbrella that celebrates our shared values, and represents a united people who are proud of their individual ethnic identities. So cowhide then became that natural choice material. Not to mention that in my culture, it represents wealth and royalty, and I want Zimbabweans to remember who they are, and bask in the glory and wealth of their heritage ad culture.

Zana'Kay Talks About  A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, & Why She Chose Architecture Asante Afrika Magazine
Zana K

Who is the ideal client for A Tribe Called Zimbabwe products?

Every Zimbabwean is my ideal customer, and everyone who aspires to be a friend of Tribe and Country, and share in the celebration of our culture and heritage.

You’ve had the privilege of dressing some high profile personalities like Busisa Moyo, Ayanda Burotho and iNkosi uBulelani Lobengula-Khumalo, among others. How does that make you feel when you reflect on the journey of how you started your brand with only US$200, to where you are now, dressing the ‘who’s who’, and supplying your products to people in countries as far as America? 

It’s a humbling experience, and it affirms the biblical scripture that says that “your gift /talent will cause you to sit with kings”. I’m glad that I was bold enough to walk in the path of my calling. Regardless of the obstacles or the humble beginnings, I kept pressing on.

Zana'Kay Talks About  A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, & Why She Chose Architecture Asante Afrika Magazine
Zana K with Sandra Ndebele at Roil Bulawayo Arts Awards in A Tribe Called Zimbabwe Outfits

You are also co-founder of Umakoti by Nkazana Royal Bride Exhibition. Can you tell us more about that and what/who stimulated the decision to make cowhide bridal wear?

Umakoti by Nkazana Royal Bride Exhibition was a jointly planned exhibition, whose vision was to exhibit the textile work of Ganu, and the cowhide work of A Tribe called Zimbabwe, whilst sharing the common values of celebrating and promoting culture and women.

You recently made exquisite décor pieces for your home office using materials such as cow horns, used bucket handles, old bicycle wheels etc., and the results were really stunning. What stirs your creativity, and did you learn art at school, or is it an inborn gift?

I never studied art or fashion. My art and fashion skills are self-taught, and I guess I’ve always been inherently a creative. I’m inspired by culture and materials. I can look at a material and start imagining the many ways it can be used or transformed into something else. That’s what creativity is I guess… a sense of imagination.

Zana'Kay Talks About  A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, & Why She Chose Architecture Asante Afrika Magazine
Zana’s Hand-crafted Office Décor

The unfortunate side of being a creative is that sometimes you have to deal with issues like plagiarism of your designs or your work in general. You have experienced that more than once, and that has made you outspoken about protecting Intellectual Property (IP). How does it make you feel when, as a creative, you give your all to your craft, giving birth to your idea and bringing it to life, only for someone to appropriate your whole design process and ultimately the whole product, passing it off as their own?

It’s a conflicting feeling. On one end it’s disheartening and borderline infuriating; on the other it’s somewhat flattering that someone lusts after your creativity to the extent of plagiarism. However, feelings can’t get in the way of sound business ethos and practice, and thus I speak out and take action. It’s not easy to register a patent for any business, especially a small one, as it is an expensive feat. However, it is critical as rudimentary work, to patent as much creative work in order to make easy any exercise of rights to one’s intellectual property. The moment work leaves a metaphysical state of being an idea to becoming a tangible product or written document, it is already one’s intellectual property.

Whilst a country like Zimbabwe may seem like easy prey to violations, firstly we must understand that ideas themselves Are Not Poor. Ideas possess such immense and infinite potential for wealth, it is only when an executed idea fails can we rethink that potential. It’s important ideas and to protect our ideas and the processes proceeding thereof legally. Copycats will always be there and subject to prosecution but at A Tribe Called Zimbabwe we sell more than a product, We sell an experience, a zeitgeist, a milieu, a Genus Loci, as we call it in architecture (i.e. , spirit of the place)… a vibe, iSomething nje ethi, “I’m Zimbabwean”, kaThat thing kanoti “Proudly Zimbo”.

So whilst a few may be swayed to buy a Chinese replica, a true lover of Tribe and Country is loyal to the original authentic A Tribe Called Zimbabwe experience. The same way true lovers of wine are particular about a wine’s terroir, i.e., where its grown, how it’s made, this is the same way culture or art should be consumed. This kind of thinking and market consciousness then throws the foreign imitations off the mental shelves of a customer.

Zana'Kay Talks About  A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, & Why She Chose Architecture Asante Afrika Magazine
Zana K wearing her renowned crown

In a country like Zimbabwe, patenting one’s products can cost up to US$3,000 per product, and getting lawyers to fight copyright issues on one’s behalf is just as expensive. What do you think can be done by creatives to raise awareness of the need to curb plagiarism?

Creatives simply need to be educated on what IP is, what it constitutes, what infringement is, and how they can avoid the same. It doesn’t help to have a small batch of creatives having this information – all creatives must understand this subject, so that we relate to each other well where these matters are concerned.

Zana'Kay Talks About  A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, & Why She Chose Architecture Asante Afrika Magazine
A Tribe Called Zimbabwe Merchandise

The legal fraternity also has a role to play. How do you think, or what do you wish they could do to best assist creatives to raise awareness of the above-mentioned issue? Do you think having a Creatives Council, or in this case a fashion council in Bulawayo or Zimbabwe as a whole, would help creatives by protecting their rights?

I think a Creatives Council will definitely bring some structure and protection where IP rights are concerned, but we need to understand that law enforcement should be a last resort in any society where people are grounded in good ethics and morals. The very act of stealing or infringing on someone’s intellectual property, points to an ethical or moral decay either within that person, or society. So the first port of call would be in my opinion, to educate creatives on such topics, before we create bodies that respond to such delicts.

You mentioned to us that you were raised by a very strong mother who was certainly not a pushover, and in essence, she passed on those character traits to you. How important is it to be able to stand your ground in the creative industry, seeing as not everyone may like your products or agree with your style or pricing?

Never offer a product. Anyone, given the right tools and skills, can offer a product. Offer instead, an experience! That way you know your value. You understand your worth, and your product speaks to people that understand the same. The moment you start discussing or debating on price, know that the value and experience coefficient in your product is losing its foothold. It’s okay that not everyone will understand or relate to a product, but everyone understands value.

Zana'Kay Talks About  A Tribe Called Zimbabwe, & Why She Chose Architecture Asante Afrika Magazine
Zana and her mother at Zana’s graduation

What advice would you give to a young African girl who would one day like to become an architect or a designer with a superb and exclusive brand like yours?

Talent is not a substitute for work. No matter the career choice, understand that you are unique, and have inside you a unique offering to the world. It’s your responsibility to work hard and refine and articulate that talent and gift to the world. There can be a hundred thousand architects, singers, dancers, doctors or fashion designers… but none just like you. So never quiet that inner, unique talent that you have, just so you fit in.

Where do you see your brand in the next 5-10 years? Our vision is to grow into Zimbabwe’s centerpiece of Afrocentric Apparel and Interiors, and mastering the art of translating our African identity and heritage into relevant modern products. We aspire to make an overwhelming impact in the fashion industry by creating a high consumer demand for our products through strategic relationships, advertising and participation in local and international fashion shows, as well as other relevant trade shows. We envision launching a unique line of fragrances and accessories alongside a unique Afrocentric apparel line, and to grow from being a home industry to a prestigious brand, with stores in strategic areas in Zimbabwe and Africa. We aim to use this fresh approach to Afrocentric fashion to unlock a new profit source from the targeted market. A Tribe Called Zimbabwe has the potential to become a highly regarded resource in local, regional and international market.

Connect with Zana:

Website:  www.atribecalledzimbabwe.com
Blog:  www.zanakay.wordpress.com

LinkedIn: Nomakhosazana K Ncube

Instagram: @zanatribequeen  

Twitter: @atribecalledzim

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

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Fashion & Beauty

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, “#IKnit”

Upcoming Civil Engineer and creative Busi Shordy Nyembe talks about her trendy fashion brand, #iKnit.

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Some may think of hand-knitting as a skill or an art which is long outdated. Having learnt the skill from her grandmother, the young and talented creative and upcoming Civil Engineer has modernised the trade, and is making fashionable pieces which appeal to the younger generation.

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe

There’s so much to say when summarising who I am and what I do… but briefly, I’d say I’m a creative at heart. Born and raised in Orange Farm and 27 years of age, I’m a full time Civil Engineering student at South West Gauteng College, a singer-songwriter, a Craft Designer, a gym fanatic, and an entrepreneur. I believe in dreams, and the sky is the limit.

Living and spending lots of time with my grandmother had me learning to do everything that she would do with her hands. My Gran used to knit duvet covers from wool, and door mats from plastic. As she would knit, I would be right there next to her, learning the craft. I remember when I was in grade 5, we had an Art & Culture project to make something hand-made; I made a colourful beanie and got full marks for it. 

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
#IKnit Designs: Muse – IG @Czah_themodel; Photographer – IG @Jusicenasphotography

Busi says she hand-knits all her designs, and they are inspired by the current diverse fashion trends, since her clients buy her products and wear them with other clothes that complement them pretty well. ”The patterns of my designs are made with the right size needle, so they come out beautifully. When my clients place an order, they get to be part of the design process. They get to pick their own wool colour which they would love their designs in, and that makes it special enough for them, and they have an input in the creative process. For instance, they can decide if they would like to make the ballet longer, or the socks shorter.” 

I make my designs modern by using modern wool colours and knitting patterns that complement clothes worn in the modern day era. I also do a lot of colourful stripes because they are currently the in-thing. I cater for everybody, both the young and old market, and I also have designs for kiddies.

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
#IKnit Designs: Muse – IG @Czah_themodel; Photographer – IG @Jusicenasphotography#IKnit Designs

Growing up in Orange Farm within a close-knit community where almost everyone knows everyone, definitely made it easier for me to get a clientele for my products. When I was starting out the business, the marketing medium was word of mouth, and most of my clients were from Orange Farm, including people that I knew personally. It’s only when I posted on Facebook and other social media platforms that I reached a broader clientele. 

Right now I use all my social media platforms to market my products. That’s where I upload my work and that’s also where my clients post and tag, showing appreciation for my skills. Many other people see the posts, love the products and place their orders. This means of advertising is very effective and my business is definitely profitable, and it is growing rapidly.

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
#IKnit Designs: Muse – IG @Czah_themodel; Photographer – IG @Jusicenasphotography

Shordy says that she has not always been a patient person, but knitting has taught her to be patient. It has also taught her to be disciplined when it comes to her time management, in order to be able to study and workout. When knitting, a lot of time is spent being seated, facing down and using her hands, so she works out to stretch and relax her muscles. She says that knitting has also taught her to be calm and to respect everybody, because everyone is a potential client. 

As Shordy is the creative brain, I asked her if she has anyone who assists her with the financial side of her business and she responded… “My mother helps me out to manage the business side of the venture and her support is amazing.” Shordy believes that it’s very important for small business owners to do business literacy courses in order to better manage their finances so that they know how to use their finances to manage the growth and sustainability of the business. “Every business has 5-10years to reach their full potential, and not putting money back into the business might paralyze it,” says Nyembe.  

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
#IKnit Designs: Muse – IG @Czah_themodel; Photographer – IG @Jusicenasphotography

When she starts to produce her products at a larger scale, Shordy says that in order to maintain her standards and personal touch, she aims to continue treating every single order as her only order, and maintain the communication level with her clients so that they still have an input in the making process of their order, and they will still get to pick their favourite wool colour.

Knitting is a special skill which is passed down from generation to generation, and Shordy has already begun the process of teaching the skill to two young people in order to keep the craft alive.

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
#IKnit Designs: Muse – IG @Czah_themodel; Photographer – IG @Jusicenasphotography

In parting, Shordy advises young people who would love to learn a craft and make a living out of it to follow their hearts, because people will pull them astray. The most important thing, she says, is to start! “Stop over-planning and just start, you will learn everything else as you go along,” says Nyembe.

South African Designer, Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe, Talks About Her Trendy Brand, "#IKnit" Asante Afrika Magazine
Busisiwe Shordy Nyembe

Connect with Shordy through her page on Facebook, @ShordyNyembe.

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

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