JOY Magatti Rusike, the woman behind Uzuri Creations believes African fashion is ‘very colourful by nature’ as clothes made out of the African printed fabric represent and showcase Africa’s natural beauty.
Also known as Kitenges, the African fabric is often decorated with a huge variety of colours and patterns with many of them having a meaning.
As an expert who deals in tailor-made African print fashion, Joy believes that despite the old belief that this kind of fashion is only reserved for special occasions, it can be worn every day depending on the design.
“I have simplified the print and made it more accessible more wearable, and more stylish,” said Joy.
“I think in Zimbabwe people are more conservative in terms of fashion. Ladies love wearing their suits. However, I have seen a huge shift on this trend and now people are becoming more adventurous.”
Joy said this innovation is allowing the African print to feature, not only in the traditional wrap-over dresses, but also in different styles like pants, tops among others.
“I love experimenting with different prints and it puts a smile on my face when am driving around Harare and see women being more adventurous experimenting with prints”
After starting Uzuri last year, Joy has distributed her clothes beyond borders and hopes to make her fashion house a household name not only in Zimbabwe but worldwide.
Joy Magatti Rusike is probably one of the most versatile fashion designers that you would come across in Zimbabwe.
Running under the label Uzuri Creations, her inspiration comes from the love and self-professed ability to spot beauty.
But more importantly is her marriage to the African print that has seen her wardrobe filling up with all kinds of African patterned fabrics.
That love for the African print is evident in her neat studio. The studio at her house sells her out just on stepping in. You can see the touch of genius in the simplicity and of course the colourful fabric that hangs on one wall.
“Everything that I make for clients I also make for myself. It is difficult to sell something to someone who has not seen it on someone else,” she says reaching out to one of the costumes on the hanger.
At first glance, I have to admit; I shuddered to think why I had taken all the trouble to visit her studio to see all the “horrible” African attires that we see on the streets.
The faith that she had instilled in me on the long drive to her offices was soon to be regained.
“I see just a few clients a day, maybe four or five. I feel each costume that I make is an ambassador for me out there,” she said.
“I get the client to understand how I get the African print to jell in with Western designs. Trust me there is nothing wrong with Luis Vuitton, but I just believe in my African print more.
“I used to watch Nigerian movies and marvelled at all those attires. I love the print. I also like watching fashion shows.
That helps me to improve on what I see. The colours, the texture; they will last a long time. I love creating something modern from these old and ethnic prints and marrying them with Western styles. ”
Joy says her advice to lovers of print is not to choke their look with wearing too much of the same thing; for instance wearing huge beads together with African print.
To avoid that, she fuses the African print with plain Western designs.
“Wearing print may not necessarily be dressing from bottom to top in the same design but even accessories like a neckpiece and a belt can do the trick,” she said.
She uses mainly dashiki, kanga (Zambia) and kitenge. Among her designs she also has Kaftan dresses and fitted dresses.
The coy designer dresses prominent Zimbabweans among them businesswomen and political figures, ambassadors.
She also has clients in the United States, Australia, United Kingdom and South Africa.
Her materials are sourced mainly from Tanzania and Zambia.
That she is Tanzanian also oozes in her designs especially the name Uzuri, which is Swahili for beautiful.
Joy has seen much of Africa, thanks to her father.
From her country of birth, Tanzania, her musician father took along his family to Lagos, Nigeria for two years up to 1986 before re-routing to Southern Africa and staying in Botswana in 1987.
Unfortunately he died three years later and her South African mother had to take her back to Tanzania before deciding in 1993 to go back to her home country after calls of repatriation.
Interestingly, her mother is born of a Portuguese father who stayed in Mozambique and Joy had to relocate to Maputo.
It was during one of her visits to South Africa in 1998 that she failed to elude the charm of Zimbabwean information communication technology specialist Eddie Rusike and for love refused to return to Mozambique.
But having ricocheted around Africa, Joy boasts Zimbabwe is her home.
“When my husband told me he had decided to return to Zimbabwe I was terrified. Having read all the stories about the country I just did not see it work. We had visited before but I was scared,” she said.
“On the contrary when we finally came it felt prophetic. I remember when my husband made the decision it was after reading the scripture Deutronomy 30 verse 5 which reads; “The LORD your God will return you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will possess that land again. Then he will make you even more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors!).
“I feel so at home.”
Uzuri Creations will on August 1 celebrate its first anniversary with a reception at Joy’s house in Borrowdale.
She said the brand has been growing and she is now working on getting new office space as working from home limits her clientele to women only.