Profile: IMPRINT ZA, Africa is not just a trend.
- What it means to be African
- From counting coins to counting thread.
- Evolution, Significance and Resonance.
- Spreading the word, penetrating the market
- Imprinting on the future.
For the founder of designer label IMPRINT ZA, Mzukisi Mbane, Africa is not a trend. Rather, at the core of his design philosophy is storytelling. “I celebrate the stories and glamour of our African ancestors with a very modern and futuristic feel. So, for me, inspiration comes from understanding who I am, where I am and where I want to be,” he says. This call to identity and self-assuredness was incredibly evident at the return of AFI Fashion Week Cape Town recently after a two year hiatus.
Here, IMPRINT ZA rocked the runway and fashionistas, influencers, and fashion lovers went into hysterical raptures of approval and desire. The menswear brand has a simple and often-stated ethos of “leave a mark”, and it certainly did. Since its founding, IMPRINT ZA has had a distinctive identity, parlaying it into a very deep understanding of the nuances and application of heritage. Says Mzukisi: “When I started, the brand already had a distinct look and feel, but over the years has grown to be more about a shared African identity rather than just mine as a Xhosa South African man. Today, the brand reveals my understanding of what it means to be African.” This goes beyond the realms of aesthetics and positions Africa, its fashion and creativity as more than a trend. Which is why The Wire is so into IMPRINT ZA.
From counting coins to counting thread.
Fashion has always been a calling for Mzukisi, although things could have been very different. For the designer, the realities of being black and living in South Africa is often steered towards the practical. “I went off to varsity and studied a BCom Accounting. It was only when I was in my final year that I decided to take a gap year to explore fashion. I began by playing around with my mom’s old sewing machine. And just like that my dream of becoming a fashion designer came to life.”
In 2015, Mzukisi participated in an SABS programme to ready him for his year as an emerging creative at the Design Indaba. This seminal time became the foundation of what he wanted his brand to mean and how he wanted his clothes to be remembered as well as his passage into fashion. He described this process as a kind of imprinting: thus IMPRINT ZA was born.
Evolution, Significance and Resonance.
IMPRINT ZA strides boldly as an African luxury brand with an Afro-futuristic aesthetic. Today it is instantly recognizable. The eponymous prints do not rest on the laurels of Afrocentric traditions but are thoughtful evolutions in elements of design and printing, and respectfully honour what has come before. Design-wise, IMPRINT ZA is no gimmick, trend, or zeitgeist. Its narrative is profoundly authentic in its Africanism, without any other lens or gaze to approve its existence or relevance. Wear it anywhere on the continent and you are a vibe. Wear it anywhere in the world and you are a statement.
Spreading the word.
Last year Mzukisi took his look to the people. From shows in Milan, New York, Lagos and Botswana, IMPRINT ZA finally reached the everyday South African man-on-the-street. No doubt the young South African male is fashion conscious but, in a unique twist, the IMPRINT ZA Summer collection at local retailer Markham, put an African Fashion perspective upfront for consumption.
The collection had three print variations – Inkomi yaBenguni, Futuristic Zebra, and Africa Is Not a Trend. The range was presented as completely versatile and easily styled to suit everyone’s unique fashion sense. Digging into the treasure trove of African heritage, ‘Inkomi yaBenguni’ launched with red, blue and white designs inspired by the African shopping bags known as “Ghana Must Go,” widely used across the continent. The brand later introduced pink, yellow and green colours to the print which took centre stage in the collection and included cow heads, which symbolise Nguni culture.
Futuristic Zebra, was actually a re-imagined print, special to the IMPRINT ZA creative team. The inspiration came from a joke about the future of Zebras and what they are going to look like, according to the Imprint team.
Inspired by Malians, “Africa Is Not a Trend” is one of Mbane’s favourite designs. With this print, he wanted to celebrate the diversity of Africans and their ability to set trends.
More than edgy looks, Markham customers also received a TED TALK in African Anthropological Identity, exploring custom, tradition and aesthetic.
Imprinting on the future.
Msukisi has much to be proud of. Accolades and achievements have flowed from IMPRINT ZA’s inception. His African bridal dress was nominated by TV presenter Bonnie Mbuli as one of the contenders for Design Indaba’s Most Beautiful Object in South Africa 2019. He opened his own store in Johannesburg and has dressed a slew of celebrities including clients such as Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, has been in shows both globally and on the African continent and has had a successful prêt-à-porter range penetrate the market. But it is his continuous flair for creativity, respect for his heritage and view into Africa’s design future that makes him so special in the sphere of African Fashion. Which is one of the reasons that The WIRE notes that Africa, is not a trend.
C.S.A.’s monthly cultural portal, The WIRE connects the dots of culture. With concise stories, many with video content, take a premium dive into the world of African entertainment & cultural fluidity. It’s one thing to be hip to what’s happening but it is another to know why.
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