‘Local’ trees contributing to fashion trends

Sharon Kavhu
The world has witnessed different fashion designs from international designers such as GustanoCadile, JazminChebar, Vanessa Seward from Argentina, ZahiaDehar from Algeria, Ray Brown from Australia, DuroOlown from Nigeria and Korto Momolu from Liberia and Tsungi Banga (local).
Most of these designers use cotton, leather, denim, silk, satin and cashmere among other common materials.
However, in Zimbabwe there is a unique fashion trend of traditional attires that is emerging.

Designs of the traditional and fashionable products which are being manufactured from indigenous trees are ranging from bags, shoes, ear rings, bangles, fashionable beads and anklets among others.

“Bamboo bags and mopani ear rings are the fast selling fashionable products on the market presently,” said Tendai Mubaiwa Chingwanangwana (40) one of the local traditional designers.

His selling table was filled with bracelets made from soul berry tree fruits, female sandals decorated with colourful beads on the surface, necklaces of deferent shapes and sizes, shiny brown earrings made from baobab tree seeds and female handbags made of old record players blending well with some leather material.
The bamboo bags were made in a way that made it difficult for one to believe that it was manufactured from a raw bamboo tree.

Chingwanangwana travels mostly to rural areas to gather his raw materials for his products.
“I frequently go to my rural home area in Chikwaka to collect raw materials such as the bamboos; seeds from baobabs, musasa tree, mopani tree, roots of the mupangara tree and seeds from muhacha,” said Chingwanangwana.

“The bamboo tree branches are first boiled in fat so that they become soft and easy to cut and design into any fashionable style. After boiling the branches, I cut them into equal small pieces depending on the size of the bag I want to make.

“Usually I make medium sized female bags by joining the small pieces of the burnt bamboo with twin thread.
“Sometimes I paint the baobab seeds and insert them in between the bamboo pieces to diversify the designs of my products.”

He said he peels of the mupangara roots and shape the roots into any design for smart portable earrings with a polished surface.
The 40-year old designer said the same roots can be used to manufacture wooden necklaces.

Fashion advisors view wooden accessories as classy and resemblance of African sense of beauty in fashion. However, there are mixed feelings on the designs and attires of the traditional fashion trend.

One fashion designer Tracey Mupindu from Gweru said wooden necklaces are best accessories for open dress or tops with a natural colour.
“Polished wooden necklace, bracelets or earrings can be worn on dresses, tops and skirts as well as pants only if the outfit designs suits the accessory.

“For example obviously open dresses or tops and that are short sleeved would require a bulky necklace and bracelet respectively. On the other hand if the dress or top covers a larger surface to the neck then something thinner maybe required.”
She said wearing a high neck and a bulky wooden necklace would look stupid.

Mupindu added: “In a case where the wooden accessory is polished and painted with different colours, it may require one to wear outfits that go well with the colours of the beads.

“For instance wearing a yellow dress with brown wooden accessories or pink with a light brown polished wood accessories would come out nice.”
On the other hand, a regional merchandiser of accessories Chipasha Mwanza from Zambia said it is possible for one to wear a high neck outfit with a bulky wooden necklace which can be thrown on top of the dress or top.

“The necklace should, however, be a medium size and contrasting vividly with the colour of the dress. Normally such an attire would need a three piece wooden necklace to complement the outfit.”

December 2015
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