East London’s Zazi Fashion makes its debut during New York Fashion Week
Renowned South African design house Zazi Fashion will be taking to the catwalk for the first time during New York Fashion Week on Saturday evening for the Runway 7 collection at Sony Hall in New York City.
Founder and creative director Onwaba Mleve, who hails from East London, arrived in New York with seven giant suitcases full of garments, not to mention a jam-packed schedule of model castings, fittings, photo shoots and rehearsals.
“The excess baggage fees were extremely expensive — but our castings and fittings went very well, and we have 10 models to present the collection,” she told TimesLIVE.
“We have three South African models — two who have travelled with me all over the country and recently showcased my collection on eNCA, and another beautiful model, Wilhrisca Britz from Polokwane, who is now based in New York.
“I love everything about New York, except for the freezing weather,” she laughed.
“I miss our South African sunshine. Our African colour collection is a proud Mahikeng presentation called ‘Traditional Elegance’, and it features traditional mbaco Xhosa fabrics sourced from East London in lots of bright, vibrant colours and African prints. It’s a collection that features everything from something you could wear to the Oscars to an [outfit better suited to a] simple traditional setting.”
Now managing a company of more than 50 employees, Mleve spoke of her journey from the corporate world to that of design.
“I love to support local and sustainable [enterprises]. I also have an accounting degree and was a Deloitte employee who was retrenched. I then became a sangoma and would dream of all kinds of different designs while I was sleeping. I dream most of my designs, so the design part of my business is a gift, and that’s how I got the name ‘Zazi’, which in Zulu means recognition, confidence and wisdom. The stars aligned and showed me the path I was supposed to take.
When she first received an enquiry on Instagram to join New York Fashion Week’s Runway 7, she initially thought it was a hoax.
“I didn’t believe it at first. I requested that they e-mail me and send me a formal invitation with the details, which they did immediately, and today I feel really honoured. What inspires me is making an impact while making a living. I’ve been sent to help on this Earth, and that is part of my journey.”
“Creating jobs and making sure there’s food in another household give me joy. So that’s why every week I have new designs that come from my dreams. I still couldn’t believe it was happening until I was literally boarding my Air France plane, and I’m grateful for some of the sponsorship assistance that was provided.”
“I’d just like to thank my team for all their hard work. I’m not alone — it’s everyone who has made everything possible. Thank you to the South Africans and fashion industry people who are going to be attending my show. It’s a team effort, and I’m excited for my dreams to become reality.”