In conversation with Fashion EDI
How do you put a conversation whereby three people told the stories of their love for what they have been gifted into one thousand and something words, and ensure that the documentation feels like the reader was sitting right next to you throughout the conversation? There is so much from this conversation about fashion and property that you will take home with you. Weeks after the conversation, we still carry with us in our homes that property is more than a mere sum of square meters and fashion is beyond self-expression. We sat down in our boardroom to have a conversation with Core Director of Phukazi Holdings, Nkululeko Ngubane together with Paseka Sonamzi and Naomi Mazibuko, 2 young fashion designers after spending a few hours understanding their personal relationships with the creation of their garments.
The Fashion Enterprise Development (The Fashion EDI)
The Fashion Enterprise Development (The Fashion EDI) is a a fashion designer’s enterprise development initiative that seeks to guide and support young fashion designers in their journeys. Key to the initiative is driving meaningful social change through property, entrepreneurship and education. The initiative has partnered with a commercial property landlord (Pareto Limited) to utilize their “retail space” (Westgate Shopping Centre) to offer young designers a practical experience of running a professional retail business. Their vision is to transcend the program into a program that brings change in every South African province since opportunity creation for informal business in the fashion and textile industry is important. The dawn of the initiative lies in placing posters in the spaces where young fashion designers call home. It is important to note that Fashion EDI created a space where young designers did not feel out of space or have to enter a world that saw them in an inauthentic light. Fashion EDI became home instead of merely a space for Paseka Sonamzi and Naomi Mazibuko. It has taught them the importance of pricing their garments with a purpose. Property is the tool through which the investment in young fashion designers was attainable. Without it, none of this would have been possible. Ngubane believes that systems hinder young people from attaining their goals and by creating opportunities through Fashion EDI, goals and dreams become reality. Therefore, The Fashion EDI cannot end with its beginning. It will be continued and many other young designers will be given the chance to see themselves in these spaces that the world tries to stop them from cementing themselves in. Ngubane expresses that it is through big commercial property owners such as “Pareto Limited” that continuity can be achieved because in his view this is a win win initiative. What we learned from this is that shops are not just shops and property is so much more than square meters. There are livelihoods and values involved.
Ngubane expresses that: ‘In the next three years, we would like to see these developed enterprises being operated as sustainable businesses, and of course having taken leasing space (tenants) in the properties we’ve developed them in. We aspire to see The Fashion EDI being listed in at least five (5) properties. We believe that more opportunities of this nature must be created for the youth.’
Paseka Sonamzi on his garments that offer life to the mundane and redefine the narrative
Our introduction to Paseka Sonamzi’s relationship with fashion began with green hues on fabric hung on a clothing rail outside. His brand, Marcule Clothing, offers the mundane life. He takes what the heroes and heroins of our communities put on their backs during the day and molds it into high quality garments. Sonamzi’s garments have no gender and thus open the door to the liberated expression of any gender. In our eyes, this is reflective of his perception of fashion as well as where his journey as a fashion designer began. His journey with the creation of garments finds its beginning in his home and visual art. The presence of his mother’s oversized jerseys, sketching in his visual art sketchbook and altering pants using what belongs to his father are among the influences in his life that brought him here. His hybrid beginning with this world instilled in him the understanding that fashion is diverse. This diversity breathes in his garments. By seeing clothing as something that belongs to all of us, regardless of our gender identity and therefore giving us the tools of expression, Sonamzi redefines the narratives of fashion.
Additionally, his act of redefining fashion is one he wishes to continue with in his journey. Sonamzi aspires to place his garments on the backs of performers on world stages in studios and theaters all over the world. His why lies in his passion to honour South Africa with a unique style identity that first comes to life in our land and is offered life globally.
Sonamzi believes that it is imperative that the creator of fashion garments goes a step further than merely expressing themselves through their creations. One must ensure that they act as a brand and in doing so, instill the confidence in themselves because the world believes in those who believe in what they have to offer. Additionally, the key for Sonamzi is to research extensively and if given the opportunity, allow educational resources and school to teach you in excelling. What he stands for is seen in his own journey. Sonamzi has worked under the mentorship of Thula Sindi and his research of the fashion industry and spaces has become important in his understanding and views of his brand, Marcule Clothing and himself as a designer. Being a part of Fashion EDI has provided Sonamzi the ability to see the relationship between property and fashion as an intricate one whereby one must understand their market and the significance of the value chain. He expresses that: ‘you must position yourself where your business is, not where you are’. Be where your clientele is.
Naomi Mazibuko on Noomi M being a part of who she is and what she wishes to do for the South African fashion industry
Naomi Mazibuko’s garments come to life because there is so much life within her. Her relationship with fashion finds its birth in her family tree. Mazibuko is the daughter of women whose fingers are responsible for the creation of garments. Therefore, her garments as well as her brand, Noomi M, carry a line of women and fragments of Mazibuko that we cannot separate from her being. Hence, the name of her brand carries a little bit of what is in her birth name. In addition, there is so much life that exists in the colours of Noomi M that in our eyes mirror what she exudes. For her, her brand is a representation of who she is and like colour, it allows her to step out and confidently tells the world that she is who she is.
Her view on the importance of the personal finding home in fashion is reflected in what she aspires to do with fashion. She wishes to open the door to a society where we appreciate the garments that our own people create to put on our backs. In doing so, she wants to create a South African industry that is driven by distinct identifiers; elements that are reflective of what the South African industry births. It is from her that she believes that our identity and uniqueness will come to life and eliminate the warped perceptions of South African fashion designers as well as the spaces in their entirety. It all begins at home for her. Start supporting at home and believe in what home creates before anything else. Fashion, for her, can become a well where we can find our essence and our pride, the roots of who we are and where we come from. It can be a source of life.
In Mazibuko’s eyes, fashion can win us many wars, allow us to fly through ceilings and break any barriers. She sees the power in fashion to dismantle the borders that separate us as Africa’s children, an educational tool that can be used to teach the world about our culture and cultural diversity. In her own words, Mazibuko wants to fight a war that has been brewing for many many years; a war that has divided African people. She will win this war by uniting us through fashion and her greatest win will be the attainment of our success. In addition, she expresses that: ‘We would be a force to be reckoned with, that’s the kind of world I want to help create, the kind of barriers I want to break and war I want to fight. I will work until change is attained’.