Designing for Nicki Minaj


STYLE Corner was looking forward to interviewing Zimbabwean fashion icon Farai Simoyi, who was set to headline the Zimbabwe Fashion Week at the beginning of September but has decided to postpone her trip to next year.

2008-2-1-IMG_1440Simoyi, the senior designer for the Nicki Minaj Collection, is one of the few Zimbabweans raising the country’s flag high on the global fashion stage.

Style Corner did catch up with Simoyi online and she spoke about her career and gave advice to young Zimbabweans with dreams of going global. Not many people had heard about the designer before she reached the pinnacle of Nicki Minaj’s fashion empire, despite having launched her brand in Harare three years ago.

With the help of various stakeholders in the fashion and media industry arranged by women’s lifestyle magazine, Jewel, she had a successful launch and fashion forum.

Her journey began with the decision to study fashion design and though she faced resistance from her parents who did not think it was a good career choice, she pursued her dream.

They later accepted that it was her passion, one which she was determined to turn into a career and so they got on board to support her. On the academic front, Simoyi attained a Bachelor of Science degree at West Virginia University as well as a degree in Textiles, Apparel and Merchandising with an on Design at Nuova Academia di Belle Arti in Milan, Italy.

Simoyi’s enthusiasm has paid off and her 15 years studying and practicing fashion is paying dividends, with her own label, “Farai”, growing into a global brand.

In 2012, she got international recognition after winning the Designer of the Year Award at the African Diaspora Awards.

Her career has been known more recently for being head designer for a celebrity clothing line but her career includes many other designer brands. She has worked for Beyonce Knowles’ clothing line “House of Dereon” as well as her rapper husband and business mogul Jay-Z’s “Rocawear”.

Other designer labels she designed for include “Threads for Thought”, “Private Label for Macy’s”, “Luxirie”, “Ten 25 Denim”, “L.E.I.”, ‘Rachel Roy”, “Robert Rodriguez”, “Nine West”, “Vintage America Blues” and “Anne Klein”.

Surprisingly she is not star struck and intimidated by designing for international celebrity brands, instead she focuses on the tasks at hand.

“I’m never intimidated working with celebrity brands because I know I was hired to do a job based on my experiences and qualifications. It is more of an exciting challenge, I have to understand and tap into the celebrities’ style while managing to create clothes for retail,” said Simoyi.

Despite the tough conditions on the global fashion industry, Simoyi who proudly identifies herself as Zimbabwean, has managed to land top designer posts while at the same time leaving a mark on the scene.

Her work ethic got Style Corner wondering what other young Zimbabweans can learn about how to get employment opportunities in the fashion world.

From her experience she believes that in building industry contacts and recommendations from peers and colleagues, one can land many high profile positions like she did.

“Over the years I have built a personal Rolodex of fashion industry contacts as well as social contacts within the industry. I landed the Nicki Minaj Collection (NMC) position through a social contact who was working on another celebrity designer label.

“She told me that the NMC team was looking for a senior designer and they loved my portfolio.”

Simoyi said another way of gaining visibility and landing jobs is to have an updated comprehensive LinkedIn profile, staying connected to former employers, colleagues and peers from school and being involved in a charitable organisation.

“Philanthropy is a great way to meet people professionally and socially as you are all congregating for one common thing, to help others and that also brings people together.”

The designing guru has been involved in various charity initiatives in her career.

The latest charity project that she was involved in was: “I Am Because You Are” (IABYA), which aims at being a support system for women entrepreneurs globally and one she plans on bringing to Zimbabwe next year.

The project provides tools and resources for women-owned companies and provide mentoring and networking opportunities through other successful women entrepreneurs who we refer to as “influencers”. In terms of her contributions regarding the Zimbabwe fashion industry, Simoyi stays positive and sees the potential.

“The fashion industry in Zimbabwe will rise to great heights if we all come together and work as one team.” Simoyi emphasised.

“A fashion industry is about creating a district that has manufacturers, sample makers, production houses to assist designers in developing their lines, reliable shipping to export clothes, textiles, and retail stores with policies to stock local before importing.”

The designer is working towards the sustainable development of the African fashion industry and plans to have 90 percent of the merchandise manufactured in Africa by 2016.

“I want to create products that are sustainable, ethical, and benefit the people who make them.”

Her label has already started working with a clothing factory in Ghana and they are currently looking towards South Africa with plans for all production to happen in Zimbabwe.

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