Designer Q&A: Bongiwe Walaza
One of our leading fashion designers Walaza chooses to use original shweshwe for her designs. Her work often appears on magazine covers and on TV.
How would you describe your designs?
I like working with prints. I make garments that portray women and enhance femininity without being too revealing. I prefer an individualistic approach.
Everything I do must have an African feel with global appeal.
Many of your outfits involve a fitted bodice and flared skirt. Can you comment on this?
Most African women - and I'm talking in terms of geography, not race - tend to have a pear shape. People don't like to expose their larger areas.
I use a fitted bodice because it shows the person has a beautiful structure, but then I flare the skirt.
This is done in such a way that it celebrates the curves and makes them more appealing, so people won't say the person is big.
Also, a flared skirt brings comfort - one of the most important things is comfort. I work like this with most women.
When I think of your designs I think of dresses, dresses, dresses.
Yes, they celebrate the female body so women can feel good about themselves.
What is the best part of your job?
So, that's why your clothes fit so well?
I design and make the patterns myself. It is while making a pattern that I get an idea for another design.
The more I make patterns the more I get other ideas.
You design mainly in original shweshwe fabric. How did this come about?
I love shweshwe - it's something I know from my childhood. While in my final year at fashion school, I used shweshwe and other fabrics. When I used shweshwe in a fashion week, I did very well. Da Gama Textiles representatives attended the show and approached me and asked to sponsor me.
How do people respond to the use of shweshwe?
Shweshwe was something people were forced to wear after they got married.
It was binding, and not liberating. Now people are proud of shweshwe. It is seen as being more modernised.
Once we put it on the catwalks, it became a trend.
It is now attractive to everyone - it's a world thing, and no longer our own thing.
Tell me about the show you did in Germany?
On March 7 I did a small, intimate show in Berlin. It was quite special to showcase to 400 people.
South African Tourism in Germany organised the show.
I was approached to be a style ambassador , promoting South Africa in Germany.
It was a one-year project which culminated in the show in March.
Who or what are your influences?
Most of my designs come from inside of me. Being African, prints do influence me.
I am influenced by where I come from, Mqanduli, near Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, as well aseverything happening around me now.
I'm not good at sketching. I make technical drawings. But if I travel I will do a rough sketch to remind me of a design.