PROMINENT local fashion designer Thembani Mubochwa, who is also the director of Afro Jumbo Trust, was recently appointed the Big 5 ambassador in recognition of his efforts towards wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe.
the style interview: By Winstone Antonio
From the time he launched his fashion label TeeZM Designs, which he later rebranded to TZM Fashion House, business has been growing steadily for him. This has seen him develop several unique fashion collections.
As the Big 5 ambassador, Mubochwa will be responsible for raising awareness in schools about the importance of wildlife conservation. He will be supported by Afro-Jazz sensation Selmor Mtukudzi through various initiatives in partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
The school tours have been endorsed by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
Through his designs, Mubochwa was a fortnight ago honoured with the Best Fashionista Designer Suits For Men accolade at Style Oracle Fashion Awards held in Harare.
The Standard Style reporter Winstone Antonio (WA) caught up with Mubochwa (TM), who opened up about his profession. Below are excerpts of the interview.
WA: Who is Thembani Mubochwa and what sparked your interest in fashion?
TM: Thembani Mubochwa is a Zimbabwean fashion designer, a father and a husband. My interest in fashion started as fun and later I started developing a passion for solving people’s costume problems. I was then encouraged by an uncle to take my passion seriously in 2000 when I was doing my O’Level and since then I never looked back. What I know best in my life is fashion designing and tailoring.
WA: To complement your passion, did you receive any form of professional training in fashion designing?
TM: Although I believe it is a gift from the Almighty, I had to go to a fashion and designing school to polish up my gift so it could be visible to the world.
WA: No doubt your designs are good. What is your inspiration when you create such designs?
TM: My inspiration when coming up with a design comes from anywhere; as long as it serves the purpose of solving the problems about dressing and addressing issues through fashion, it fulfills my inner soul.
WA: What is your latest fashion design project and how do you stay up-to-date regarding fashion?
TM: I have dedicated this year  and 2017 to the upliftment of wildlife conservation through my fashion and I am more focused on revealing the other side of fashion that we never experienced before.
WA: Tell us more about some of your collections.
TM: I have TZM collection, which is a clothing brand and a fashion house that produces other labels like the recently released Craig Zoowie label, which was invited to represent Zimbabwe in Namibia at the Windhoek Fashion Week. Last year, I introduced a presidential collection that was endorsed by Environment, Water and Climate minister Oppah Muchinguri as the first client of the presidential collection.
Through the presidential collection, I have managed to come up with an elephant dress that is there to address challenges that are being faced by our elephants.
WA: Who is your role model and most influential fashion designer?
TM: Nicholas Jebrano — a Lebanese fashion designer.
WA: How best can you describe Zimbabwean fashion trends in comparison to global ones?
TM: In Zimbabwe I believe we are not yet on that level of setting trends as our generation is at the moment laying the foundation for the Zimbabwean fashion industry so that the next generation can have somewhere to start from. Unlike us, our parents fought for us to have a free Zimbabwe.
Today we are able to lay that foundation of the fashion industry for the future generations to take it globally.
WA: It appears Zimbabwean designers are yet to really make an impact and achieve their rightful place in the global fashion market. What do you think must be done to achieve such a feat?
TM: I believe we still have a lot to do before we speak of going beyond the borders. As long as one cannot make it locally, the chances are very slim to make it in a foreign land. I foresee the future generation using this foundation we are laying today in the industry to take the legacy we have started all over the world.
WA: There has been general lack of appreciation for local designs by celebrities, artistes and Zimbabweans in general as they prefer foreign designs to local creations. What do you think must be done by Zimbabwean designers to win hearts of local clients?
TM: I consider this to be something Zimbabweans need to learn — to believe in locally- made products like South Africans and Nigerians, to just name a few who appreciate their local designs.
As Zimbabweans, we can be powerful globally if we can start to embrace our own and the designers need to capitalise on local celebrities to push their brands through partnerships. It is high time local designers humbled themselves and invested in local celebrities in order for their brands to grow. If big brands internationally can partner with celebrities to push their products, it’s a worthwhile partnership to consider. I have worked with South African wardrobe specialists for soaps such as Generations, Muvhango and Jika ma jika as one of the designers doing garments for the cast.
WA: So have you dressed any prominent celebrities before?
TM: I have dressed some of South Africa’s top gospel artistes like the late Vuyo Mokoena and Sfiso Ncwane, Lira and JR, to just mention a few. Back home I have dressed Honourable Oppah Muchinguri, entrepreneur and a member of the empowerment lobby group, Affirmative Action Group, Chamu Chiwanza, the late Sam Mtukudzi, Afro-Jazz musicians Selmor Mtukudzi and husband Tendai Manatsa, among others.
WA: How would you relate past and present fashion trends?
TM: Trends are how we interpret what has happened to help us try and understand and predict the future. The present, has seen men’s suits going slimmer, skinny, colourful and pleatless on pants yet before we had formal pants with volume due to lots of pleats.
WA: What is the major lesson you have learnt to date and your advice to aspiring fashion designers?
TM: Through my journey in fashion, I have realised how the fashion industry can take a designer far as I am experiencing the other side of the fashion industry that we never knew in Zimbabwe.
To all Zimbabwean designers, I think they need to recognise how fertile Zimbabwe is in terms of the fashion industry and maximise on that. A lot has not been done here compared to our neighbouring countries like South Africa and Nigeria. we have to join hands and lay the foundation for the fashion industry for the next generation.
WA: Thank you for your time Thembani
TM: My pleasure.