Zimbabwe is great. A look into our pre-colonial history is sure to leave one beaming with pride and deep reverence for their country. I mean, we built metropolises using stone bricks alone, without any mortar!
The sad reality on the ground, however, is that the average Zimbabwean suffers from a debilitating inferiority complex. Persistent neo-colonialist efforts have made sure of that.
Everything that is not from the so called ‘first world’ is deemed second-rate, lame, low quality, overvalued, any negative descriptor you can conjure.
The way we dress has obviously not been spared. Fashion and identity are two sides of one coin.
Thankfully, a unique strain of Zimbabwean has emerged to balk the trend. These are the people using fashion to instill a deep connection to our Zimbabwean roots and heritage, inspiring people to embrace and celebrate the diverse facets of our nation.
One such brand that embodies this ethos is Great Zimbabweans. It’s in the name, and more so in the design.
All of Great Zimbabweans’ designs are undeniably inspired by Zimbabwe. Reference is made to the Zimbabwean bird, the flame lily flower, the coat of arms, the Great Zimbabwe ruins and the Zimbabwean currency—before the hyperinflation.
The name represents the strong-willed spirit of the Zimbabwean people as they strive for greatness. We had the privilege of sitting down with the founder of Great Zimbabwe.
The following excerpt of our conversation gives a peek into the brand’s ideologies and aspirations. Enjoy.
Can you introduce yourself and what you do?
I am Takunda Chiduwa. I am a Creative, I do multiple crafts, including visual art (paintings), digital art and Packaging Design which is my profession.
What inspired you to venture into fashion?
I believe fashion is an element that becomes part of your brand as a person. The way you dress and look is what presents you to people in terms of your personality, your character, who you are and what you represent. When you look great you feel great and when you feel great you do great.
Did you ever think you could own a brand? If so, at what age did you first think of it?
I grew up as a creative kid. I used to customise and paint my own clothes. I believe the seed to own a fashion brand was planted then, I think I was about fifteen years old.
The name ‘Great Zimbabweans’ is almost self-explanatory. It shows patriotism and national pride. Why ‘Great Zimbabweans’?
The name speaks to our greatness as a people. Zimbabweans are blessed with resilience, and the name represents the strong-willed spirit of the people as we keep striving for greatness in all life’s endeavours, against the odds we are facing as a nation.
What are you trying to achieve with Great Zimbabweans?
A challenge faced by today’s youth is loss of identity, culture and self-belonging that has been diluted by adopting foreign cultures and lifestyles that is influenced by fashion and clothing labels from abroad.
This has resulted in lack of self-appreciation and acceptance for who they are, loss of purpose leading to self-abuse, self-sabotaging of dreams and unconsciously working against themselves and becoming their own worst enemies by indulging in self-destructive behaviour.
With this brand, I am aiming to encourage patriotism and acceptance of being a proud Great Zimbabwean. From then on, one can embrace our culture and traditional beliefs and embrace the fact that they are African, the fact that they are Zimbabwean.
Great Zimbabweans aims to enhance culture preservation and people’s empowerment based on their own identity, being proud of who they are and having a self-assertiveness to be able to go forward with whatever resources they have, make the most of them and actually succeed on the basis of that.
An example would be Terry Maps of Kwa Terry who made use of the village lifestyle through an acceptance of our roots as Zimbabweans and built from that.
How many pieces has Great Zimbabwe made so far? Can you name them?
Heritage. Old $1 Coin. Coat of Arms Redefined. Great Conical Tower. Chevron Patterns. Old $2 Pangolin Coin. Show Greatness. Move with Pride. One Love—inspired by Bob Marley’s visit to Zimbabwe. Unified in Style.
Any upcoming collections?
There’s a Victoria Falls design and a Kariba Dam design in the works.
Anyone you look up to in the fashion industry?
I look up to all local Zimbabwean brands pushing streetwear fashion and local brands that represent our different personalities and characters as Zimbabweans. They are quite a lot and if I would name a few, I would have not done justice to all the players in the industry.
The collective efforts of each brand helps reinforce this local clothing industry and its growth. Most are built on local lingos, lifestyles and statements that are popular among Zimbabweans.
Given all the resources are available, who would you want to collaborate with?
We would like to collaborate with Celia Rukato creator of Chjaa, a local brand here in Zimbabwe.
Her collection of local designs is amazing and defines Zimbabwean culture to the fullest, which is where we aspire to be.
Fashion can be used as a tool for self-expression and communication. How do you use fashion? When you design, who are you designing for?
I see fashion as your own individual packaging and who you are as a person. When designing, I always aim to come up with designs that speak to my main vision—to inspire patriotism by instilling a sense of pride and cultural consciousness and hopefully inspire everyone to think about their role and contribution as Great Zimbabweans.
The average Zimbabwean barely knows any local brand. What are you doing to reach this technically untapped market?
Currently we make use of social media for exposure and marketing. We sometimes work with public figures to represent our designs. We also attend local Open Markets to reach, network and expose our brand. We have found this to be the most useful strategy and I would encourage other brands to start displaying their products at these local markets.
Who are some of the notable figures you have worked with?
Gary Tight, Shinso Man, The Warriors for their 2018 AFCON campaign, Sandra Ndebele, Andy Muridzo, Coddy Rank Marshall, to name a few.
What do you have to say about bloggers and platforms (like Mcheno and More), and the value of the work they’re doing?
These platforms help in communicating our vision and mission to the public. I think you guys even encourage the youth who come across your content. When they see many others who are building homegrown brands, they can know that it’s a possible dream to realise.
What can you say to the people who want to get into fashion?
Believe in any idea they may have and know. Whatever idea they have, they are right. The trick is to execute and let your idea take a life of its own.
The clothing boutiques of today may be filled with cheap replicas of foreign luxury brands, but the future does look local. Great Zimbabweans is yet another example of a homegrown brand we should support, if not for the style, at least for the patriotism. You can follow them on X(Twitter) and Instagram to stay up to date or place an order.