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Zambian designer plans African fashion take over

posted 3 Dec 2012, 08:00 by Mpelembe   [ updated 3 Dec 2012, 08:00 ]

Young Zambian designer Kapasa Musonda is breaking into her country's fashion industry after designing stints at Guess and other renowned international fashion brands. Musonda says her eyes are set on dressing Zambians and Africans in local designs they can be proud of.

(GROUND ZERO / FASHION INSTITUTE OF DESIGN AND MERCHANDISING) - Twenty two-year-old Kapasa Musonda's journey in fashion started when she was in the 6th grade with a dress-sketch inspired by palm trees, but it was not until just after high school when her career started to take off.

Trained at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles after winning an entrepreneur scholarship that took her to the US, she was awarded for the Most Cohesive and Most Creative women's collection of 2010 and graduated among the top of her class.

After school she went on to design for international labels like Guess, Disney and BG Haute Couture, giving her exposure in one of the world's top fashion industries.

This year she felt she needed to take a bold step and return to Zambia where she could be part of what she says is an industry getting much needed attention in fashion and where she wants to lead by example.

"Having studied abroad and working in an already established industry, I knew coming back home toZambia, that this was just a growing industry and I wanted to find my place in the market and also create jobs for people who have the love and passion for fashion creation, but may not have had the opportunity that I had," said Musonda.

Musonda says early in her career she was inspired by American and European designs but admits she is now somewhat "obsessed" with African Fashion.

She says she is amazed by the innovation and originality of African designers, something she hopes she can carry on.

Her fashion label, Mangishi-Love was launched in June this year to positive reviews. Mangishi is a local word that means soft wire -- often used twisted and spun for artistic purposes like sculpting. She says this flexibility reflects her ability to design almost all kinds of clothing.

Industry experts say local fashion business in Zambia is still young. Compared to other more established industries like South Africa where designers produce for commercial stories, Zambian designers mainly make clothes for individual clients.

The fashion calendar is also not that busy, with only a few shows like the Zambia Fashion week, which started in 2005, where Musonda showcased clothes from her Mungishi-Love label.

"I definitely see this as an industry that is growing at a really fast rate. I think just in the next two, three years we are going to have more fashion designers developing their own brands and we will be breaking into international ground, which is somewhere where I would like to take Mangishi Love, I don't see it just as a Zambian brand, I see it having a really solid place in the international market both regionally within Africa and internationally," she said.

But being home will come with its challenges. Musonda says funding is a major hurdle for young designers, especially because the market for finished garments is still not on a large scale.

"Its just... unfortunately with everything you will face challenge and right now I feel the challenge I'm facing with my brand is financing. Being a young entrepreneur its not easy to get loans that I need to take the brand where it needs to go and also just.. we need more platforms to showcase our new collections. The Zambia fashion week, which is pretty much the most stable platform we have now, but not everybody has the chance to showcase their clothes there," she said.

Musonda sells her garments on order to the US and locally for up to about 900 US dollars for western designs and between 300 and 500 US dollars for African designs.

Zambian fashion researchers put the number of top professional fashion designers in the country at about 10. Lack of proper training on one end and poor advertising and marketing on the other are some of the problems facing the industry's potential.

"Zambia is a growing market for anything. Anything can sell in Zambia. There is so much potential for anyone to come out and do something new and Zambian people are basically bored, they want something new," said Linda Roberts a Lusaka resident.

Musonda says he hopes she can change the way Zambians think about fashion and influence them to go to local designers as a first option before they visit foreign store chains in malls.