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Feature: Zimbabwean designer brings visual language to fashion – The Star Online
by Tafara Mugwara
HARARE, May 23 (Xinhua) — In a world in which conformity is the order of the day, Tarisayi Gweje’s fashion designs are known for standing out from the conventional.
One of her dresses – made from leather and decorated with beads – teleports the admirer to the pre-colonial era.
“My way of producing these gowns, it’s a way of trying to think out loud and show people out there this is what we were, this is how we were going to be like if we hadn’t been colonized before,” Gweje told Xinhua in an interview.
As a visual form of art, fashion can be an outlet to express the mind, she said.
“I have been thinking, what if we were still in that era before colonization? What were we going to be looking like? Were we going to produce fabric or we were going to develop using our natural pods, leather and many other things?” she said.
Gweje is a fashion designer focusing on avant-garde and haute couture in her creations. Her norm-defying fashion is presented in the most unexpected forms.
For avant-garde pieces, she mostly uses found objects and recycled materials. Her haute-couture dresses are mostly made from natural materials.
Another gown in her collection presents a stunning juxtaposition of Western fashion with African culture.
The work is currently on display at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe under the theme “BreakTheBias”. The exhibition celebrates the achievements of women and female artists.
“My art and my work is a way of expressing myself. It’s a way of expressing how I am thinking, or how I wish things would be like,” Gweje said.
Another display, a black dress decorated with spoons, narrates the situation where people work hard but are hardly rewarded for the work.
“So the spoons were representing the people who are working very hard and earning very little, yet there are so many other people, they are really a few people who are not working but they are earning large amounts of money and they are splashing money out there,” Gweje said.
Beads are a common feature of her traditionally themed costumes. She said they symbolize woman’s chores in a highly gendered society – so time-consuming yet barely noticed and therefore unrewarded.
She said her art also aims at drawing attention to environmental degradation.
“For Avant Guard, I decided to use found objects to clean the environment that I live in and make use of the things that we think are no longer useful. I find it very fascinating that I can make some art pieces or some designs that are acceptable to the world out there with those things that people think are unnecessary,” she said.
Gweje is among a new crop of African stylists taking over international fashion. To date, the artist has graced many international fashion shows.
Traditionally, dressing served as a method of cultural expression by people who occupy present-day Zimbabwe. Colonization forced the adoption of western-style clothing, and until now, Western fashion served as one of the foundations of local fashion.
Presently, local designers including Gweje are redefining African fashion, taking Western fashion and molding it into African styles.
New Teams: Jacquemus and Nike, Vuitton and Kusama, Fendi and Istituto Marangoni – WWD
“For this collaboration with Nike, I wanted to create a collection that reinterprets athletic women’s sportswear in a minimal way. I have always been inspired by vintage ACG pieces and Nike campaigns from the 1990s,” the French designer said in a statement.
Porte Jacquemus said he imagined “a world where outdoor pursuits and court sports co-mingle within a new, integrated aesthetic” for this collaboration, which spans apparel and footwear along with “a variety of hallmark Nike designs with unisex footwear and accessories.” The items will drop on his brand’s e-commerce on June 28 and will be rolled out globally across Nike’s retail network throughout the summer.
“Having this imagery in mind, we designed women’s athleticwear with sensuous details and neutral colors, along with my own interpretation of the Humara — my favorite Nike shoe. It was important for the collection to be accessible, for all bodies, and to be a natural blend of Jacquemus style and Nike performance,” he continued.
No further details on the designs have been revealed but Jarrett Reynolds, vice president of catalyst apparel design at Nike, stated the collaboration had involved “[drawing] from vintage ACG inspiration, the interweaving of Nike Dri-Fit fabric, and [considering] footwear like the Humara, to create a nexus of sport and style that could only be done through the shared lens of Nike x Jacquemus.”
The Nike x Jacquemus collection, described as redefining summer ready-to-wear as “comfortable anywhere, anytime,” comes as Whitney Malkiel, vice president and general manager of Nike Global Women’s, told WWD in an interview on the brand’s 50th anniversary that it would continue to experiment with collaborations as consumers continue to look for comfort and versatility in the post-pandemic world.
“Women are still loving the idea of comfort and versatility. What we’re seeing them do is start to mix it up with something more tailored and structured as they head back into the world and back to work. We’re excited to play into that as we move forward,” she said. — LILY TEMPLETON
The work includes a collection of exclusive bags that feature a reinterpretation of the artist’s obsessive dots across Louis Vuitton signature shapes as well as on new models.
According to the brand, the pieces celebrate Louis Vuitton’s long-standing relationship with the artist, and while it will hit stores worldwide in January 2023, some pieces already debuted as part of artistic director of women’s collections Nicolas Ghesquière’s resort 2023 fashion show last week at the Salk Institute in San Diego.
So far Louis Vuitton has posted two videos on its Instagram revealing the new collection. Each has already garnered 150,000 views.
Chapter one debuted in 2012 and saw Vuitton launch both a ready-to-wear and accessories collection in collaboration with Kusama. It was expressed in a wide range of offerings, including exhibitions, products and series of unique window installations, including a lifelike mannequin modeled after the artist herself. — THOMAS WALLER
Kicking off this week, the initiative will see a number of students of the fashion and art school recovering materials previously used by the luxury house for its window installations to create new artworks.
The students will operate under the creative direction of American visual artist Sarah Coleman, who was recently tapped by Istituto Marangoni as one of its mentors and has already collaborated with Fendi on different projects.
Known for manipulating designers’ materials to rethink everyday objects through an ironic filter, Coleman will work closely with students hailing from the courses of fashion design, multimedia art and textile innovation, following them step by step through the processes of conception, development and final execution of their work. Fendi managers will also be involved in the interdisciplinary project via online and in-person meetings.
Developed also thanks to a collaboration with Pardgroup — the Italian company that handles the window change-out operations of Fendi’s European flagships — the final projects will be showcased in the fall in the exhibition space at Fendi’s factory in Bagno a Ripoli, a 25-minute drive from Florence.
In addition to telegraphing Fendi’s commitment to sustainability, the project builds on the brand’s ongoing support of new generations of talent in craftsmanship and luxury.
For instance, last year the brand strengthened its partnership with New York’s Juilliard School to highlight the talent of emerging artists in different disciplines, from dancing to acting. The company gave the Fendi Vanguard Award to four rising stars selected among Juilliard’s final-year students enrolled in the bachelor’s, master’s and advanced diploma programs.
The fashion brand and Coleman have worked together on multiple occasions, ranging from the revamp of Fendi’s Miami store in the Design District and the creation of a limited-edition Peekaboo bag in 2020 to the launch of a summer capsule collection last year. — SANDRA SALIBIAN
BETTER TOGETHER: The OTB and the Zegna Foundations have joined forces to support Cesvi, an Italy-based humanitarian organization that has been providing assistance to Ukrainian families impacted by the conflict.
Targeting pregnant women and mothers with children under five, as well as disabled people and the elderly who couldn’t flee the country, the organization is providing linens, pillows, warmers and hygiene kits.
Thanks to the two foundations, Cesvi said it has already helped around 1,000 families across several sites in the war-torn country, including Odessa, Dnipro, Kramatorsk and Kyiv.
“We have supported Fondazione Cesvi for over 15 years, in Italy and globally, wherever natural disasters, conflicts or health emergencies required a swift and effective intervention to support local people,” said Anna Zegna, president of the Zegna Foundation.
“In addition to sharing the same values of human solidarity and defense of social justice, we share the same operative approach, in that we focus on concrete goals, which we rapidly achieve thanks to knowledge of the areas of intervention and ability to set up support networks that are respectful of the local context and cultures,” she added.
The Zegna Foundation has partnered with Cesvi in the past, for example, for the “From A to Zegna” charity initiative aimed at supporting educational programs globally.
Similarly, the OTB Foundation has had Cesvi on its radar. The organization’s “House of Smile” homeless shelter in Zimbabwe was among the recipients of the 2019 OTB Foundation’s “Brave Actions for a Better World” charity program.
Among the earliest responders to the humanitarian crisis linked to the conflict, the OTB Foundation answered the urgent appeal launched by UNHCR and has provided the country with medicines, first-aid kits and necessities, shuttling back Ukrainian women and children. It also made sure that refugees could take COVID-19 tests and be vaccinated and helped them find accommodation in private houses or residences. Earlier this month, the foundation and the OTB Group said they will be offering long-term employment to Ukrainian refugee, as reported.
“We have no intention to leave those who were not lucky enough to flee their country alone,” said Arianna Alessi, vice president of the OTB Foundation. “This is part of the campaign the foundation has launched to support Ukraine, and it addresses the population target that is closer to our hearts: women and children,” she added.
Cesvi was founded in 1985 in Bergamo, Italy, and now operates in 23 countries through about 100 projects called “Houses of Smiles” in Africa, Latina America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. — MARTINO CARRERA
REVOLVING TO CANNES: Revolve Group has been revealed as the official after-party sponsor of this year’s amfAR gala taking place during the Cannes Film Festival.
The VIP-heavy event will mark the first European event sponsored by both Fwrd and Revolve under the collective RVLV umbrella.
“Showcasing special events and experiences around the world has always been incredibly important to the RVLV Group audience,” said Michael Mente, co-chief executive officer and cofounder of RVLV Group. “This is our first time activating during the International Festival de Cannes, and in the context of such an incredible setting and display of creativity, it is important for us to bring visibility to the change-making amfAR organization.”
Mente will host designers including Peter Dundas and Sami Miro, as well as friends of Revolve and Fwrd, at the gala dinner and after party. The event is set for May 26 in Antibes, France, at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc.
AmfAR hosts several annual international galas, always drawing a starry crowd of figures from the fashion, entertainment and art worlds. The Cannes gala has raised more than $245 million to support the nonprofit’s initiatives, which include funding AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment and advocacy. — KRISTEN TAUER
IN-DEPTH: The empire Robert Mugabe built is collapsing like a castle built on sand – New Zimbabwe.com
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What you need to know:
- ‘Gucci Grace’ will, however, still live comfortably for the rest of her life even if the businesses that her husband left her collapse, as post-coup law ensures that she has a decent pension
Five years ago, Alpha Omega Dairy was one of Zimbabwe’s fastest-growing dairies, with a range of products that became dominant on supermarket shelves and the streets in the country’s major cities.
Built by former first lady Grace Mugabe on commercial farms grabbed from White Zimbabweans, sometimes violently, Alpha and Omega boasted state-of-the-art milk processing plants and its products were advertised for free by the country’s only television station, ZBC.
A subsidiary of the late president Robert Mugabe’s sprawling agro-business company Gushungo Holdings, at its zenith Alpha Omega produced a variety of yoghurts, ice creams, mineral water, fruit juices and milk.
So rapid was its growth that in 2015 then agriculture minister Joseph Made announced that Alpha Omega had snatched 30 percent of Zimbabwe’s dairy market from established firms, including the state-owned behemoth Dairibord Zimbabwe, just three years after its establishment.
The former first lady once described her operation as the second biggest in southern Africa and claimed that they had installed equipment capable of milking 64 cows at once.
She said the dairy was anchored on a herd of more than 2,000 cows.
It was touted as a model of success for the southern African country’s controversial land reform programme that began at the turn of the millennium.
The company became a serial winner at the country’s annual trade showcase – the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair – where Mugabe would shower accolades on his wife’s dairy like confetti at a wedding.
At the ruling party Zanu PF’s televised rallies, it became routine for cameras to zoom in on ministers happily feasting on Alpha Omega ice creams.
At Robert Mugabe’s communist-style birthday parties held at large venues on February 21 every year, it became a fashion statement for top officials to be seen eating ice cream.
At one of the fetes in his last days, the octogenarian was photographed struggling to swallow a bolus of ice cream.
On the eve of the coup that eventually toppled Mugabe, his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was the vice-president at the time, had to issue an apology for claiming that he fell ill after eating Alpha Omega ice cream during one of the rallies.
Mr Mnangagwa started vomiting amid claimed diarrhoea at a rally in the southern town of Gwanda and was immediately airlifted to South Africa for treatment.
His backers insinuated that it was the Alpha Omega yoghurt that caused his illness and this did not go down well with his boss.
He was subsequently fired for allegedly plotting against his boss, only for him to return as president after a couple of weeks following the November 27, 2017 coup.
That incident could have marked the end of Alpha Omega’s dairy market dominance and the beginning of the demise of a business empire built by one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents as the Mugabes lost power a few weeks later.
A few years after his inglorious exit and subsequent death in Singapore in 2019, the empire that Mugabe built is crumbling like a deck of cards.
President Mnangagwa’s new government turned off the taps for lucrative contracts from state-owned enterprises and all of a sudden Alpha Omega had to face the real market on its own.
Some of its major buyers were the army, parastatals, public hospitals and police, among other state institutions.
When creditors came knocking on its doors, Mugabe’s widow could not keep the business afloat.
She is now leasing part of the company’s dairy estate in the Mazowe area, west of Harare, to a local businessman, but this has not helped to revive Alpha’s fortunes.
A survey in Harare showed that leading retailers last received Alpha Omega products several months ago.
At the sprawling estate in Mazowe, a fleet of broken-down delivery trucks catch any visitor’s eye.
Employees who spoke to Nation.Africa complained that they now go several months without receiving their salaries.
“Things have not been looking good since the death of president Mugabe and after his widow decided to take a back seat in the running of the business,” said a Gushungo Holdings worker, who sought anonymity fearing reprisals.
“At times we go months without getting paid and business is now hard since the owners no longer wield the influence they used to have.”
Auctioneers also regularly put farming equipment and vehicles from Mugabe’s Gushungo Holdings and Gushungo Dairy Farm on sale as the family scales down operations.
The last auction was on February 22, a day after the late ruler’s birthday, which is now a national holiday in Zimbabwe.
Old vehicles and farming equipment such as combine harvesters went under the hammer.
A family member said the auction was part of a plan to scale down business operations by the late dictator’s widow, who has rarely been seen in public since her husband’s death.
The 56 year-old former first lady, who had serious political ambitions at the time of the coup, is said to be spending most of her time in Singapore, and when she is in Zimbabwe, she retreats to her rural home in Zvimba, west of Harare.
“A decision was taken to sell the equipment at the farms because it was no longer being used due to the serious downscaling of operations,” said a Mugabe family member, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The farms are no longer as productive as they used to be.”
When he was still in power, Mugabe was accused of commandeering state institutions to provide services at his multiple farms and this gave the false impression that he was running a thriving farming business.
Signs that the dairy business was in distress started appearing a few months before his death, when in May 2019 he was forced to auction five combine harvesters, five pickup trucks and other farm equipment.
One of Mugabe’s farms on the outskirts of Harare has been invaded by suspected supporters of President Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF party.
The invaders, who are already farming at the property, are accused of decimating Mugabe’s herd of cattle after the government reduced security presence at his farms following the coup.
Another farm located in the Mazowe area has been taken over by artisanal miners.
The invaders, who are supporters of Zanu PF, have even set up a gold milling plant within the Mugabe family’s sprawling farmland.
Mr Mugabe’s daughter Bona and her husband Simbarashe Mutsahuni Chikoore are fighting in the courts to block the government from redistributing part of the vast farm, which was also seized from a White Zimbabwean by the dictator.
The couple accuses the government of unilaterally seizing sections of the property they were allocated in 2017 without considering their investments and farm utilisation.
On the other hand, the government argues that the 1,804 hectares is beyond the stipulated maximum farm size that can be owned by a single family.
In 2019, President Mnangagwa said a land audit had revealed that Grace Mugabe’s widow owned 16 farms and indicated that excess properties would be seized.
Using her moniker, the Zimbabwean ruler said: “I know of one lady, ‘Stop It!’, who has about 16 (farms) yet the law says one family one farm.”
Although the land audit report that revealed that top ruling party officials and government mandarins amassed vast tracts of land during the chaotic land reform programme was handed over to the president in December 2019, no action has been taken against the former first lady or any other owners of multiple farms.
Mugabe’s sympathisers believe the invasion of his farms and the threats to seize them show that President Mnangagwa’s administration is vindictive.
“I have never seen a country that treats the family of its former leader like this. It’s sad,” said Terry Mhungu, a former Zanu PF youth league member.
“Comrade Mugabe empowered us with land and we cannot thank him by dispossessing his widow and children of the same land they took back from our colonisers.”
There is, however, little sympathy from ordinary Zimbabweans for Ms Mugabe, who was nicknamed ‘Gucci Grace’ in her heyday because of her penchant for shopping in the most expensive designer shops in Western capitals.
Her lifestyle in a country where the World Bank says nearly half of the population lives in extreme poverty made her husband extremely unpopular in the tail end of his rule.
Legal quarrels after Mugabe’s death revealed that the former first lady had ordered a $1.3 million diamond ring from a Belgium-based dealer.
She also owned an extensive portfolio of luxury homes overseas, including a $7.6 million home in Hong Kong
At the time of Mugabe’s death, it was rumoured that he had amassed billions of dollars in his 40 years in power but his registered estate shows that he was only worth millions.
The estate registered in a Harare court in December 2019 by his daughter Bona showed that he left behind $10 million held in a local bank, four houses in the capital, 10 cars, a farm, his rural home and an orchard.
Those familiar with the former first family say some of his assets could have been registered under the names of his relatives to evade Western sanctions.
In the last 14 years of his rule, Mugabe was the subject of an asset freeze and travel ban by the United States and the European Union over allegations of human rights violations and electoral fraud.
A total of 15 farms he seized from white Zimbabweans at the height of the country’s land distribution programme and Alpha Omega were some of the business ventures that were not listed on the estate.
‘Gucci Grace’ will, however, still live comfortably for the rest of her life even if the businesses that her husband left her collapse, as post-coup law ensures that she has a decent pension.
As a former first lady, she is entitled to a “Mercedes Benz E300 or one four-wheel drive station wagon or an equivalent or similar class of motor vehicle and one pickup van,” says the law passed in 2020.
The vehicles will be replaced every five years. She also gets an entertainment allowance and two foreign trips annually where she flies business class.
Her workers are allocated a vehicle or vehicles seen fit by the president. She is entitled to two security personnel, a driver, a personal secretary, one aide-de-camp officer, a fully furnished office, a domestic employee, one gardener and one cook.
In 2018, Mugabe complained that he was given only $467,000 in pension, not the $10 million that was widely reported.
He was also given two houses, including a mansion built for him by the Chinese while he was still in power.
The Harare mansion, famously known as Blue Roof, remains the Mugabes’ family home in the capital.
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