AWARD WINNING Designer and African Fashion advocate, Pamela Samasuwo-Nyawiri, has received a scholarship to Harvard to do a PhD.
Pamela, who is a journalist by trade, having always been inspired by fashion, decided to go back to university and study Fashion Accessory Design almost three years ago.
Combining her first degree in Journalism and Communication, her passion for creativity and her drive to succeed in the fashion industry, the winner of the Vogue and Muuse Best International Fashion Accessory Design 2014 has excelled in the industry and has never looked back.
Vanhu Vamwe, the brain child of Samasuwo-Nyawiri, has established itself as a household name and brand. Vanhu Vamwe, which simply means ‘one people’ sends the message of coming together as citizens of the world regardless of ethnicity and language barriers but purely for the love of fashion, art and culture.
Her designs are handmade, immaculately using different ancestral techniques, with carefully selected materials that add value and display uniqueness based on real life experiences from which she draws most of her inspiration.
Samasuwo-Nyawiri, who last year won the Zimbabwe Achievers Fashion Designer of the Year Award, has done concept research for brands like Paul Smith and designed a range of accessories for them, as well as a series of styling photo-shoots inspired by British Vogue. Pamela has also designed a limited edition collection for River Island in the United Kingdom.
A wife, mother and business owner, she stops at nothing until she gets results. With the announcement of this Year’s Fashion Designer finalists for ZAA 2016, Tidi Kwidini (TK) had the pleasure of catching up with Pamela Samasuwo-Nyawiri to (PAM) talk about the Zim Achievers finalists, her journey and her hopes for the future.
TK: Tell us a bit more about “Vanhu Vamwe”, how it came about and what the purpose for the brand was when you started?
PAM: Vanhu Vamwe is the brainchild of my husband Simba and I. We created it around this idea of preservation of culture and devotedly protecting craftsmanship as a dying art form. As a team we share creative responsibilities, while others split designing and managing the business we have embraced each other’s differences in design aesthetics into one concept.Advertisement
TK: In other words, two people, with different strengths, coming together to build one brand?
PAM: Yes, indeed! While one of us decided to go and study Fashion, the other spent the duration of the time doing intense market research to see where our placement was. We are used to supporting each other on a personal level, and this has helped us transition the professional relationship. We often go into our separate bubbles for different creative ideas, but always come as one to bounce ideas around. Our work is unconventional as are our individual ideologies.
TK: So what are the priorities of the brand?
PAM: Our priority is ethically producing our products for the preservation of traditional craftsmanship with different artisan communities globally. We are inclined to serving others first, reflecting the cultural values of our African heritage. In this fast paced fashion environment, we are determined to stay firmly on the ground, sticking to our core values and building on fruitful and lasting relationships with the people we work with. There is greater joy in the end product yes, but we believe that more fulfilment is achieved when you tell the stories of the people first. Story telling puts you in unison with humanity, with people’s hearts and gives the products real tangible meaning. We hope as you follow our story you are inspired to start questioning your priorities too. We hope to be able to reach communities in each corner of the earth, as we continue to reveal the forgotten stories of generations.
TK: You are a Journalist by trade, what made you switch to fashion?
PAM: Yes, I am. However, I grew up in a home where fashion was very important. My mother, although a banker for almost 25 years, had a fashion business and also was one of the first few black models. She was very articulate and I always admired that in her. Saying that, my interest in fashion was never in the love of clothes, I am like the worst dresser ever, my choice of clothing always raises eyebrows, but I was and am interested in the aesthetics and processes of fashion, and how I can express it in academic and perhaps intellectual forms. So one night I was talking to my husband about this idea of creating a fashion brand that was very conceptual in how it looked but also a story teller. So it was not so much a switch from fashion to journalism, but a very clever combination of practices in journalism and fashion design.
Pamela was given the vice chancellor’s award at Nottingham Trent University