Profiling Nkanyezi Malunga, self-taught designer

Meet Nkanyeziyethu Malunga Nkosana, also known as Nkanyezi Malunga. Nkanyezi is a 30-year-old self-taught designer from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She is the founder and creative director of GANU, a brand that advocates for the use of indigenous knowledge systems in textile and clothing production for cultural and economic sustainability.

“My use of indigenous knowledge in textiles got me selected to be a part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for young African leaders in 2017.” – the eminent designer said

Nkanyezi’s early encounters with traditional textiles were through her mother, who at that time was a craft production officer and community worker, as well as her grandmother whom she used to spend every holiday with.

“Growing up, relatives and friends used to call me to style their head wraps and they’d ask me for style advice. As I grew older I’d attempt to make clothes for dolls. I was always drawing a dress or recycling some dresses.”

Her career in fashion and textile was inspired by the need to share her culturally diverse and hybrid identity of where she comes from in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. She treasures her heritage, and that played a major role in the direction her career took.

In 2018, her dream to celebrate African women through an innovative and sustainable collection came to life through the uMakoti royal bride concept which she invited a fellow designer to work with. Her collections have been featured at the Durban Fashion Fair as well as the Mozambique Fashion Week.

“Social media has become a platform for Fashion and textile designing to change the African narrative on culture and identity.” – Nkanyezi said. “It is key in the inquiry and documentation of our art. It has influenced consumer behaviour.”

The distinguished business-woman believes that social media is a massive market place that has created a link between designers and consumers, a welcoming contribution towards the growth of sustainable fashion and self-representation of our African fashion.

Just like any businessman or businesswoman, Nkanyezi had to deal with some fears when starting her own brand. Her biggest fear was entering a creative industry with limited business knowledge and tailoring skills. She has no formal training in fashion and textile, so she wondered if she would be relevant to the designers she looks up to, and she has had to make a lot of mistakes to grow.

“A GANU woman embraces the sophistication and power of being an African woman in nature, tradition, and origin.”

She would like to be remembered for her role in the preservation of the traditional systems through fashion and textile, in the quest to revive the African identity; for her role in using disruptive innovation for sustainable fashion; and for her collaborations with the women who are the reservoirs of indigenous knowledge and are cultural custodians of art.

To the young woman at home: “Dear young queen, failure is your path to success, you are the author of your script, and your dreams are valid, there’s always enough room for all of us to make it.” – Nkanyezi Malunga.

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Profiled by: Yanga Manci