PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is many things to many people, but few would have him down as a fashion icon.
But a new clothing label – which apparently has the veteran leader’s seal of approval – is pushing new boundaries, riding on nothing more than Mugabe’s signature.
Gushungo Clothing launched last year as an “experiment”, says director Justin Matenda, who admits to idolising the 88-year-old leader.
A ready market to test his idea came in the form of the Zanu PF People’s Conference last December in front of over 6,000 delegates.
Their merchandise – which included overalls, caps, berets, T-Shirts and umbrellas – was quickly snapped up as they struggled to satisfy demand.
"The demand is too high, we are working extremely hard to satisfy the growing demand,” says Matenda.
Allan Mapisa, the marketing director of Yedu Nesu, the company behind Gushungo Clothing, said they were working to expand their range to include formal wear including shirts, suits, handbags and shoes.
Mapisa and Matenda said their design are done locally and also in Asia by their partners.
Mapisa said: “We have creative designers and we also work in collaboration with our Asian partners. Production is being done in China, Hong Kong and lately Thailand.
"What makes our brand unique is the fact that our products are world class and Zimbabweans can easily relate and identify with them.
"The brand is also riding on a wave of a hero, our President. We are guaranteed success.”
Matenda said of Mugabe: “The President gave us his blessing and the signature is authentic.
"This is for him. We are celebrating the sacrifices he has made for the country.”
Matenda insists that their market goes beyond the Zanu PF faithful. Some bought their merchandise out of curiosity, or just for the fun of getting a reaction from friends. Their overalls were a hit with farmers, he said.
"Our range is apolitical and our motive is to reach out to Zimbabweans in true fashion style. Whatever negative comments they do not matter, they are insignificant. Detractors will always be there, we are not perturbed,” he said.
As part of their future plans, Yedu Nesu want to open a ‘House of Gushungo’ store in central Harare. They also plan to supply major retail stores.
"When we do that, then everybody can walk in and access our products. Our prices are fair,” he said.
Gushungo Clothing was recently boosted after former UK Big Brother star Makosi Musambasi was photographed with one of their umbrellas. The huge internet controversy the picture generated was a marketing executive’s dream. As they say, any publicity is good publicity.
Fashion statement ... Gushungo Clothing's Patience Mavima models a cap
If it fits ... A Gushungo Clothing cap bearing President Mugabe's signature
Fashion icon ... Makosi shows her true colours under a Gushungo umbrella