In Conversation with Richard Jeans: Bulawayo’s homegrown denim don

"A form of self-expression." We love Richard Jeans' unique artistic approaches towards denimwear. So we had a chance to talk with him as he shares his story in the arts and fashion journey for the inspiration of all.

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By Nomqhele Sisa Nkomo

Fashion is constantly evolving in ways that awaken the creativity in both established designers, and ordinary people. With this apparent fact of life, it’s baffling to see Zimbabweans overlooking homegrown fashion. We have a multitude of designers doing amazing work, but are shown little to no appreciation for their creativity.

Well, that’s why Mcheno & More exists; to shine a light on our homegrown fashion. Our first ever Bulawayo feature is the embodiment of homegrown fashion.

This gifted gentleman not only tackles the exhausting day to day life of a university student, but also pursues his passion for fashion relentlessly. His designs are fresh and exciting, with the rustic look that can only come from his fabric of choice, denim.

The eco-friendly recycled patchwork that inspires all his designs is what really drew me in. He is the founder of Richard Jeans, and just from the name you’ve probably guessed it, his name is Richard.

And now you’re thinking, “How do you build an entire brand on just one fabric?” The same curiosity you have is how I felt as I met Richard to interview him for this article. This was my first encounter with a designer, and I was a bit skeptical. I know it’s not just me.

There’s a popular misconception regarding designers and their ego. Turns out they are not as conceited as most people would be led to believe. I went for the designs and I ended up staying for the charisma.

After a dragged out (and enjoyable) general conversation, we finally got down to knowing more about the brand that is Richard Jeans and all else that is attached to it.

Below are the excerpts of the conversation we had; edited for brevity and an enjoyable reading experience. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Richard Moyo. I was born and raised in Bulawayo and I am a fashion designer and founder of Richard Jeans. I’m also learning at Lupane State University. I study Tourism, and I’m in my second year. However it’s not my passion. If I were to be asked to choose between school and my craft, I would undoubtedly pick my craft.

What inspired your first creation?

I wanted something to carry my books with so I created a bag. I also wanted to look cool and because I hated backpacks, I created something of my liking from my old denim shorts. Most of my creations are actually recycled and are a sustainable way to be fashionable while taking care of the environment.

Who is your greatest inspiration and role model?

That’s a tough one, because I try not create role models. When you have a brand, you want it to be as authentic as possible. So my idea of a role model is myself, as I constantly draw inspiration from myself so I create unique items and be different from everyone else. But in my disregard for role models, I actually have people I admire like Tino Mufudze from Stars29.

Are you looking to do any collaborations soon?

I’ll probably collaborate with Tino soon, so stay tuned. There is also something I might be dropping soon in August. It’s one of my first official fashion collaborations because my previous ones have been with people outside the fashion industry like Asaph (for the release of his 2022 album The Big Mhofu EP).

What is your design process?

I don’t really have a standardized process. I treat this thing as art. I just let it flow. So I actually constantly put myself in situations where I draw inspiration. I find travelling also helps with that process.

How difficult is the journey you are on right now?

It’s been pretty difficult in the sense that upcycling clothes is very strenuous. Also with juggling school it becomes difficult, because you could have an assignment at the same time you have an order. And it is a lot worse during exam time.

What are your future plans for the industry?

For now I’m just going with the flow I don’t want to overestimate my capabilities I just want to create as much as possible for as long as possible and improve my craft in the process.

How do you think you’re contributing to Zimbabwe’s fashion industry?

I believe I’m bringing something to my city. I’m representing the streetwear of Bulawayo because some people bring ideas to me and then I create and bring those ideas to life. Even in Harare I have a client base there and so I believe I’m representing the streetwear of Zimbabwe as a whole.

What challenges have you faced and are still facing even now?

There are a number of challenges that creatives face. Sometimes it’s capital. To actually do something, you need money. You create something, and you’ll just be hoping no one with money takes your creation and mass produces it.

What advice would you give to upcoming designers?

I would advise them to be as authentic as possible. It doesn’t make sense to come with something that is already in the industry.

What do you believe sets you apart from the average designer?

It’s more of a personal brand for everyone who interacts with it. I create with an individual already in mind. If someone wants something I make sure it’s something they can relate to on a personal level.

We are currently in a position where the current generation has little appreciation for the fashion world in Zimbabwe, what do you think can be done to improve that situation?

I feel like we can just do it one step at a time. There are values I attach to my brand like community, honesty and self expression. I believe in creating a community that believes in what I do, that influences people to find local brands cool, and create a community that brings change.

Where can people find Richard Jeans?

@richardxjeans on Instagram is a good start.

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