Tanya Nefertari and the Quest for Africa’s Fashion Identity

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The Diesel Studio Africa Campaign, has named Tanya Mushayi as one of Africa’s young creatives to watch. With the staggering amount of talent and passion that this 27 year old surface and fashion designer possess, we say they are spot on.


Diesel | Studio Africa Campaign from STUDIO’CONNOR on Vimeo.


Today, we talk to the beautiful lady behind the popular Zimbabwean brand Tanya Nefertari.


Finding Fashion Identity in Africa

Today, African fashion is associated with bright abstract batik prints on cotton or java fabric. But there isn’t really a definitive term for what African print or what African fashion is in this day and age. Due to globalization, everything is all intertwined in one way or another.

The African continent is very diverse with a mix of various influences. But there is one common theme within African fashion, which is that the designs are very vibrant. The majority of designers aren’t afraid to explore and manipulate the volume and shape of the fabric to make wearable art.


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As for me, my main go-to inspiration and basis of my work is the Art Deco movement. I love the African undertones within that era. My most recent collection “Starburst Collection” is inspired by the 60’s break down of formality dressing. I was reading up on how 60’s fashion in the western world came to fruition as a movement of designers who decided to go against the grain of what they had been taught fashion was or how it should look like.



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Ideally, I would also love to create my own textiles for my collections, because I think there is a shortage of truly Zimbabwean prints. David Whitehead had some very good prints, but the economic downturn forced them to shut down. Without being able to collaborate with bigger companies like this to use their equipment or to access screen printing machines, creating my own printed textiles is too expensive. That’s a hurdle I’m still figuring out.


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Zimbabwe doesn’t have an identifiable aesthetic yet like West African ankara print, but with so many designers now springing up, we’re creating our own identity. As for myself, I currently just buy and source fabrics from all over the world and make sure it has a certain Tanya Nefertari identity to it.


Wearing African Fashion your Own Way

The simplest and most basic way for one to best bring out African prints is to always remember that less is more. Most African prints look really good with all types and shades of denim, leggings, and plain clothing, depending on the piece of print you’re wearing. One thing to take note of is that while African prints may look frightening, too bold or too loud for some, they can always be worn as a focal point of an outfit, carefully broken down by blocks of colour or black. For example, you could wear an African print blazer as the only piece of colour on an all black outfit.

As for myself, I don’t really follow trends. As a designer, I feel if you’re constantly watching what other fashion designers are doing, you will end up doing just a similar thing instead of starting your own trend.

The good thing about being a fashion designer here is that it’s an open playground. As long as you can execute your product well, you can push your own trend.

(All photo credits – Tanya Nefertari)

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