Fanuel Kangondo Deputy Lifestyle Editor
Is it just about the glitz and glamour that has made the fashion industry one of the most striving businesses around the world, or are there other factors that we do not get to know about that have stood the test of time?
More often, all attention is moved to such events to an extent that only sport can equally get the same allure that the fashion industry has managed to draw even greater than politics. Naturally it comes with its controversies and scandals to an extent that some people are either made or destroyed by their encounters in such trysts.
Enter the Zimbabwe Fashion International (ZFI), formerly Zimbabwe Fashion Week.
All eyes are focused on the organisers with increased expectation that something will seriously go wrong and it becomes the talk of the fashion industry.
Over the past five years the ZFI in Harare has been one of the prime catwalk events in the capital with a limited degree of success and international flair that has toughened the character of executive director and fashionista Priscilla Chigariro-Gessen to a level that has moulded her into an enigma.
A super model turned entrepreneur who has strutted her stuff on most fashion capitals of the world stretching from Johannesburg, London, Paris and Milan. Priscilla is so committed to the ZFI to an extent that at one point when all seemed impossible to stage the event, she stepped onto the ramp to model for the guests!
As there have been some contradictory reports in the media on the fashion show, we decided to catch up with Priscilla to find out what the real story is as the nation prepares for the fifth edition of the showcase this September.
“I will never let anything bad that has happened in the past negatively affect me in this project. This year will be different from last year. Just like everything in life, we live and plan and this project is getting bigger and better and it will never stop,” she said with increased enthusiasm.
The show that attracts not only local but regional and international designers will be an enabling platform focusing on revitalising the fashion industry in line with the country’s economic blueprint Zim-Asset and will be held at the up market Palm Estate in Helensvale from September 3–6. Young designers will also benefit from several workshops that will be held during the course of the fashion week with the participation of clothing manufacturers, buyers and eminent personalities in the fashion industry.
“This will give them exposure not only to the local but international market and enhance branding and marketing of their products. We have had some successful stories from these workshops and some of the participants have started their own clothing lines.”
Among them are Tinashe “Znzorzi Adby” Phiri who has made a name for himself in South Africa while locally Kimberly Masimbe has founded her own House of Kiki M and Sarudzai Murungu is enjoying success as a local designer.
Priscilla’s effort in the fashion industry has not gone unnoticed as she is now working closely with the Department of Fashion and Design at Chinhoyi University of Technology to develop the curriculum for the students at the faculty.
ZFI which draws up to 4 000 guests has grown exponentially over the years to arguably become the third largest fashion event on the continent after South Africa and Nigeria.
Priscilla said among some of the people who attend are local and international media, buyers, retailers, owners and managers in the clothing sector, local and international investors and the broad artistic community.
She said that it could easily be counted among international events as the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, the Harare International Festival of the Arts and the Sanganai/Hlanganani — World Tourism Expo as it was modelled along international standards.
Besides creating opportunities for players in the value chain, the ZFI is evidently a bold statement that despite the invasion of second hand clothes, the fashion industry is still alive in this country and the potential for growth is in abundance, Priscilla said.
Following her passion for fashion, Priscilla made her breakthrough when she won the Super Face title in 2000 and moved to South Africa where she had won a contract with a top modelling agency in that country.
It enabled her to work as a super model with some big brands such as Coca Cola, Guess Jeans and Virgin Mobile and various international magazines.
Alongside her modelling career, she took interior decorating classes but her affinity for fashion drove her to return home and founded the Zim Fashion Week in 2010 which she has devoted energy to the status it now has today.
“I started it all from my own resources and if I had known some of the challenges that I encountered in the early years, I would not have done it.
“I am grateful for the support that I have managed to get from industry players, local and international sponsors who have now come on board including the Culture Fund.”
She said that the event might look very glamorous from outside but it involved a lot of work and expenses to put together a successful show.
Apart from the ZFI, Priscilla also runs a fashion management company as well as Fashion Day Out that provides a market place for different designers to sell their wares. She is also an ardent shoe designer.
The finale of the fashion week to be held at a different venue will be the awards night which will see the crowning of the Designer of the Year, Emerging Designer of the Year, Young Designer of the Year, Fashion Photographer, Style Icon, Fashion contributor of the Year and the Fashion Journalist of the Year.
We can only wait for the drum roll: Lights, Camera and Action!