Lindiwe Muchaneta the name behind the House of Mucha label has amazingly and impressively appeared on the Africa Show Week in London, Barcelona and New York. Here she tells her story of how she became to be the Zimbabwe designer flying the flag on these international runaway.
Gosh, if someone had told me last year November that by the end of summer 2015 I would have showcased in 3 major fashion shows I wouldn’t have believed them. Only that once I set my mind to do something I go for it and trust myself, I make myself vulnerable despite the challenges and in this case when I officially launched House Of Mucha I told myself and those closer to me that I would showcase in AFWL and NYFWA 2015 and guess what ? I did for sure. Never say if! Never say can’t. Just do it.
I recall having plenty of Ankara fabric collection in my house of which I individually remember buying. I always have a particular print that draws my eye. Unknown to me every print I have ever purchased has a similarity in pattern to my Ndebele roots well half of my roots i.e. the art. In my teens, I would always frequent art museums, more so to appreciate the work and also to draw inspiration. As I began to travel the world I fell in love with authentic woven fabric, I appreciate the process and skill behind the production .Although I didn’t have much knowledge to the skill itself I knew the individuality that came with transforming that fabric to fashion.
As a child I remember looking through my mums old pics , she dressed well in the 70s she always looked beautiful I secretly fell in love with that era and admired her style and kind of saw myself like her as a grown up woman, very classy and elegant. At around 13 years old I wanted to become a lawyer but I also loved fashion and as I watched my mum sew away I got weary as honestly never fancied that part. I made it through law school ,but, there was my fashion passion, it had to be natured, I decided to take a module whilst still at University on TV studio production and Arts design to help translate the fusion of graphic design to fabric patterns, I always thought I’d fall back on that passion if plan A didn’t go well. I don’t regret that at all. As such I managed to fit in the professional world loving Contract and Compliance Consultancy. Every other fashion day was creating and developing my own Afrocentric wardrobe hoping to one day share my passion with others alike.
My vision has always been to see myself in trendy clothes that we see in high street shops only that mine would be in particular African print and also vintage inspired because …..Why not? My biggest disappointment was relying on other skilled tailors to bring my designs to life using my much cherished afro-centric fabric. Having to wait and encounter some of the outcomes – not too great was part of the frustration. For those that came out to my vision, I had positive feedback from people that shared the same love for afro inspired outfits , some mistaking me for a designer when out and about fabric hunting and others once I wore my designs. I had to come to terms and realise that if I was going to look and feel great wearing these clothes I had to start making them myself that way I’d make them as desired and as convenient to my need I but I did nothing about this. Simply because I hate work that requires manual labour; sewing was going to be arduous. If I can’t use my brain to do it then forget it.
April 2014, it only took one person to change my perspective and bring my dream to life. I fell in love with his bespoke outfit and the more I couldn’t take my eyes off it I knew I had to ask who made it, I thought it would be the most awkward thing to do on social media but guess what? I learnt that it’s good to ask, you never know where you may end up. That night I didn’t know how much I would be impacted to follow my dream but after having reached out to this very well renowned and humble master of the bespoke world I became convinced. I asked a lot of questions and eventually began to shadow this person as I knew I’d learn a lot from him including other designers like Stella Jean whom I look up to , I had always wanted to start my own label but never felt as convicted until that encounter. It only took a phone call for me to realise how much I had the passion to design and take it to another level. Surprisingly I found myself browsing for a sewing machine, all of a sudden I had to sew!!!! I think to myself today that if not for his work and seeing his dedication to his passion, I wouldn’t have taken this step, so by way of this article I would like to say thank you for making me follow my dream and believe in myself.
I got to learn eventually and with no patience I took to make some pieces, some great and some………..not so much.
November 2014, with my vision board, my fabric and about 10 illustrations inspired by the 70’s vintage look I birthed my first line Khoi Kollection influenced by Southern African art , specifically Ndebele and Khoi art . The aim was to showcase the following year at one of the biggest platform for African fashion, I simply believed that was the plan and I followed it through with no doubt or hesitation.
I didn’t realise that there were many challenges to starting a business, especially clothing. The idea of not following what every designer was focusing on dawned on me. I had to design samples that represented me, that looked just like I had aspired all these years. As Creative Director I had my vision, I had a strategy, I used all the business knowledge I had and was ready to work 24/7. I knew my market and I knew my objectives but I was stretched all the same. It takes dedication to walk that path .That what shows how much you really want to achieve anything. I wasn’t going to be distracted by what the rest of the world was doing. Something I live by today because there are many great designers out there I didn’t want to be like anyone, I didn’t want to outdo any one or to be popular, I just wanted to do what I love and to see it come to life.
I learnt that it is essential to be prepared because once the fashion show panels took interest in my work they wanted more than I was ready to give. The pressure fell on me considering this is just my passion, I already have a career and I have a family, how was I going to do this. I had to finance everything from my production line to marketing requirements e.g. photography, look book and also including the sleepless nights to put together everything and now trying to meet deadlines. At some point I remember having mixed emotions and wanting to pull out of each showcase, simply because I was so overwhelmed having to work during the day and then also work after hours on my line. I had never taken part in any fashion show and here I was preparing for AFWL and as if that wasn’t enough pressure the NY team had also taken interest and confirmed my place to showcase (need I mention on my birthday) I thought wow! It couldn’t get any better than that.
The day it became real was at the fitting session in London, I remember us (my production team, with whom I wouldn’t have managed without their honesty, support and tolerance) picking the final selection for the showcase and fitting the models, it felt surreal seeing them in my collection, wearing my designs and looking just as I had envisaged 6 months back and trusting myself that I could do it. Not for one second did I think what about the other designers, I saw their work and I saw my work, I felt confident because I wasn’t trying to live anyone else’s vision, it was all about me everything I put out there is what I designed, versatile, timeless, classy and elegant that’s exactly what made me believe in my brand.
It was chaos and stressful backstage, models, clothes, pins, hangers, steamers and nerves. I felt very nervous and although I looked calm (as one of the also emerging designers had stated) I felt like OMG what if I fall on the runway, or one of the models fell? What if people do not like my work? What if other designers are better than me? All the what if’s I could imagine I imagined. You never get to see your line on the runway so I waited behind and when I heard the audience scream to one of my collections I felt at ease, I know it was the male models six pack that got them wild, but to know he was in one of my collections was good enough to calm me down, the part I enjoyed the most was when I took to the runway with 2 of my models. That moment is what every designer lives for, to walk down the runway and see your work! And then to hear people saying they love your collection, to see them take pictures and request more information about your collection it really got me to think YES ………….this is my passion and this IS my job. I enjoyed every second of it.
What struck me the most was the exposure I got thereafter. I never imagined I’d be invited to Spain to take part in a fashion show, like who do I know? but 3 days after AFWL I got an invite from the team behind AFWB , I thought Oh wow, but I only just did AFWL, and I’m preparing for NYFWA , how am I going to do that a week apart? It was ambitious of me to accept this invitation but the best decision I made because after the first fashion show I got to finalise my 20 line collection making it more versatile to meet a broader audience. I felt more prepared for Barcelona, asking the team all the appropriate questions and getting ready without anxiety nor naivety. To have the President of the show appreciate my work and invite me back in 2016 I can only be humbled and only want to continue working to grow House of Mucha. Every one of the 3 showcases was special to me. The NYC team contributed more to my growth as a designer , considering their affiliation to the New York fashion week brand they considered I am an upcoming designer, they guided me through out and I mean one on one , I felt confident where I lacked knowledge I wasn’t scared to ask for direction .I learnt that you actually need to have the best quality of everything , you should be prepared , have a great business acumen and presentation because once you are out there you need to have a professional platform where people can learn more about you and your products and most importantly be ready to sell.
After this amazing journey nothing can stop me from growing. I have audiences that believe in my work, not only in England and Africa but the US, Europe and Australia. From my experience I believe the thing that hinders most people from starting their own business or following their dreams is capital. I think it’s a misconception because you really can start with anything you just need to have the right drive and perseverance. I can’t say I have got to a stage where I am getting back what I put in but I am confident enough to say that having taken part in these fashion shows has opened up exposure and people know what House of Mucha is all about, they are showing great interest and are definitely putting me on a level I never imagined. I am proud to carry my Zimbabwean flag expanding my brand to the global fashion world because that’s who I am and nothing will stop me. I do see myself behind my own global fashion showcase brand/event that will break the barrier between “African fashion” and the rest of the global fashion showcases in the world. When once upon a time my dream was to showcase my designs my vision after that opportunity is to motivate, inspire and make a difference to even just one person and let them know that as long as they believe their dream and seek all the support they need to make it come to life they can accomplish anything.
I have made great contacts and created a platform not only for myself but also for those that are just like me, those that silently have a lot to offer that they too can do it if only they just go for it.
House of Mucha contact details:-
Phone: +44 (0) 7985435497