Fusing tradition with modernity

Tafara Mugwara

HARARE (XINHUA) – In a world in which tradition and modern fashion are largely considered by many to be mutually exclusive, a Zimbabwean fashion entrepreneur has found a way of fusing tradition and modernity in eye-catching ways.

Bakari Sibanda, founder and creative director of Harare-based #byBakari fashion brand, uses African print fabric to make stylish clothing that reflects the artistic expression of African culture.

Inspired by his love for culture and passion for fashion, the talented young designer set up his business in 2018 and is already making waves on the local fashion scene.

“Print has always been something that was my favourite, something that I would like to wear, then I decided, from my background, my cultural background, we have our own prints that people haven’t been looking into for a long period of time. Then I decided to mix both, both my cultural background and the fashion aspects of it and then the brand was born,” he told Xinhua in an interview.

Visitors to Sibanda’s shop in central Harare are greeted by a variety of dynamic and colourful boldly designed products that include hats, jackets, backpacks among other things.

ABOVE & BELOW: Bakari Sibanda shows a backpack made from African print fabric at his shop in Harare; and a man wearing an outfit made from African print fabric. PHOTOS: XINHUA

To him, African textiles and their intricate composition of designs are more than just a fashion trend, they portray and celebrate African tradition and culture in their own unique manner.

Celebrating culture should not be dull and reserved for the elderly, he believed, but can be exciting as well for the younger generation.

“I realised that the African print back in the day it was associated with only the older age, then I realised that maybe I am gonna bring it back in a way that resonates better with the younger generation and bring it in a way that is more stylish maybe people would actually focus on it,” Sibanda said.

Despite the increasingly interconnected global world, Sibanda believes that tradition can flourish side by side with modernity.

“I feel like most young people have been moving away from their cultural background because you know how now the world is a very vast and big world and people are adopting different cultures,” he said.

With his drive and determination, the fashion entrepreneur has seen his brand gaining prominence among the youths.

In Zimbabwe, people are increasingly wearing African print fabric to traditional events, weddings and other social gatherings. African print fabric is now frequently appearing on fashion shows and beauty pageants.

African fabric, or wax print, is made from 100 per cent cotton, or waxed cotton, and contains bold and brightly coloured designs.

Not only is Sibanda celebrating African culture through African fabric, the designer is also using fashion to bring together different cultures.

“I work with prints from all over, you find that there is South African print, which is Nguni print, there is the Ndebele print, I have worked with Kente which is from Ghana, I have worked with quite a number of different prints from all over (Africa), so I feel like I am using fashion to try and bring all cultures from different parts of Africa and bring them so that everyone gets to appreciate them,” he said.

Despite gaining a foothold in the competitive fashion industry, Sibanda admitted that setting up the business was never an easy walk in the park, considering that the world is on the cusp of an unprecedented pandemic.

“In the fashion industry, coming up with a brand I feel like there is a lot that’s involved. It includes your goals, your passion, the drive that you have, I feel like the personal touch that I give to my brand is something that makes it unique. The way I interact with my clients because sometimes some people can actually tell that we can see your personality from the designs that you come up with,” Sibanda said.

With the pandemic pushing most businesses online, Sibanda has utilised virtual platforms to make sure that he stays connected with his clientele.

“Social media has had a huge impact when it comes to my brand because you would realise that most of my clients, I would say 80 to 90 per cent of my clients are actually from social media,” he said.

Looking to the future, Sibanda is optimistic that the appetite for local products will continue soaring, and he would love to see his products in every household.