Three years ago, Vanessa Chikazunga took a bold step and got rid of her long chemically processed hair and embraced a natural look. If you have gone through this stage of taking the natural look route, you will know that you start to question a whole lot of things in life. The same thing happened with Chikazunga.
The process forced her to redefine herself as a woman, as well as review her style sense. At the time when she was going through this life changing transformation, international artists including the likes of Rihanna, Solange Knowles and Beyonce were into wearing tribal prints, head wraps, Fulani earrings and embracing the richness of African fashion.
At the same time, international brands such as YSL and Valentino were using African influences in their collection, yet the same could not be said about Africans when it came to proudly wearing African inspired pieces. Eventually, she had a light bulb moment, when she realised the power of natural beauty, resources and talent within Africa, which ultimately inspired her new journey of telling the story of Africa and her beauty through a project called Tribe.
She explains that in the beginning they sold neckwear due to the fact that through the many parts of Africa, neck and arm wear feature quite prominently. Under the mind blowing Tribe, you can expect to find pieces such as Maasai crowns and chokers, Ndebele ties, Xhosa ties, cuffs, head wraps, beads and rope jewellery. They are also looking into extending the product line to include home accessories. “So expect pieces from all over Africa to accentuate your homes very soon,” she says. Tribe boasts of some amazing pieces in their collection, with bold African accessories, that are not easily accessible. After all their clients should feel special that they are wearing something that they will not see readily available in the market.
Chikazinga says that the beauty in Tribe pieces is in the simplicity of it all. “Take for example, a neckpiece, head wrap or arm piece can be enough styling needed for any outfit. A plain dress can easily be brought to life with a few pieces. Surprisingly, there are people who are shy to wear these items, as they fear the ‘attention’ it might bring. Another aspect we love is that as Africans it is in our nature to be bold and loud, even in our choice of wardrobe, so to anyone not sure on how to start, just do it it’s in your DNA,” she says.
Chikazunga also points out that the main aim of the business is to educate and expose the amazing raw talent and products from Africa as a whole.
Time is spent on researching products, how they are made and most importantly the significance and meaning of the items in cultural terms. She tells Style that what sets Tribe apart from the rest is the time and attention to detail they put in the selection of these distinctive products sourced from countries such as South Africa, Mali, Ghana, Kenya and Lesotho. “All products are handmade. We also care greatly about who made them and so we always strive to source from suppliers we know practice fair trade and enrich the communities these accessories are made in,” she says.
She adds that the relationships they have built with suppliers throughout the continent have gone a long way in being certain that we receive the best in terms of quality and pricing.
It is hardly surprising that they have been getting international enquiries and the number of customers that they are getting range from Africans who have been living abroad and long to incorporate their roots into their wardrobes, to nationals who are curious about the beauty and crafting of some of the items.
The reception has been very good, with men even wanting to embrace the spirit of being African. Another good news is the fact that more corporates are joining the party and they are now leaning towards African items when it comes to gifting their clients. Brides, she says are also becoming bolder in their choice of accessories to accompany their African attires.
According to Chikazunga, professionals who wish to add life to their outfits can use tips such as a Kente scarf thrown over a shoulder of a business suit, which will make one turn into a commanding force in the boardroom. An A line or flared skirt made from African print with a plain coloured shirt is great for every day work wear. Thirdly, another option is layering a few beaded bangles on top of a plain coloured shirt. The price ranges from P100-P1000 for the intricate pieces.
So for those who want to see how they can incorporate African pieces into their wardrobes, and which pieces suite their personality, can do so on Instagram @bwtribe and TribeBW on Facebook or call them on 77 661 994.