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WHEN young fashion designer, Tererai Tichaona Ziwenga-Kombora’s incipient passion for the arts started at a tender age, his parents often wondered if their kid would come up with something meaningful as a career in life.

But when they saw the sheer determination that he put into his work, they started to think otherwise and decided to give the budding artist all the support and encouragement that he deserved.

While at home the perception about his art gradually changed for the better, at school, especially high school, most of his teachers were cynical and often tried to stifle his talent and nip it in the bud.

“I was born an artist and it is something that is within me. I used to run into trouble with my teachers at high school for drawing during lesson time, but nothing would stop me from letting my creative juices flow,” reminisces Tererai.

Today, all those people who were skeptical of Tererai’s talent will be surprised to learn that he is now a fashion designer specializing in designing t-Shirts, among other fashion paraphernalia.

And not only that for Tererai has deep-seated passion for his country Zimbabwe, the environment, which he says should be preserved and something which he aocates for through his designs as well as his Afro-centric identity.

“I do t-shirts with local messages on them, local labels, some with landmarks, necklaces and wrist bands of similar style, caps, joker pants, umbrellas, hood jackets as well as college jackets.

“All these carry a message of representing my country, my cities in the country, my black personality as well as raising the Zimbabwe flag high. I am proud of my country and it is a blessing to be part of a peace loving good people.

“The way that designs like Trukfit flood the local market, fashion boutiques and flea markets is the same way that I wish our local labels to do,” he said.

“I am inspired by everything around me, from the people, the objects, landmarks and nature including wildlife.”

His career took a professional turn in 2011 when he was engaged by a leading printing company to try his hand.

“I worked at Lady Godiva Branding in the printing industry where I dabbled in the printing of textile products and corporate gifts. By then, I couldn’t design, but would draw my label and give the artwork to the senior designers to digitalise it for me.

“Then in August 2012, I landed a place at LSU and it was during this period that I was introduced to graphic design software by a friend Walter Manyenya. I started with picture editing, then further taught myself the other basics using Google tutorials. And the rest, as they say, is history,” says the young designer with a smile.

But what is his source of inspiration?

“I am inspired by teenage Motorsport racer Axcil Jefferies. He is young, gifted, talented and ambitious, and despite the numerous challenges, limited resources, the young man has soldiered on and has excelled in his area.

“I think my story is a little bit similar to his (big up Axcil, you are my hero). I like the fact that he nurses big dreams of conquering the Formula 1 race.”

Apart from Axcil, Tererai also singled President Mugabe as his role model.

“My role model is the President RG Mugabe. The story of his life, from humble beginnings, the armed struggle fighter, the teacher, the hero, all these are the reasons why he is still fit and able to deliver. It is clear that he was a well-mannered young man when growing up, and that is what I am trying to emulate, to be humble and keep away from HIV and drugs,” he said.

Despite all the successes that he has garnered, Tererai however laments lack of financial challenges as one major stumbling block to his career.

“I do not have the financial muscle to fully utilise my talent. At one point, I didn’t even have my labeled T-shirt to wear myself but would only afford to design them for clients. Hapana bag mdara (I am facing serious financial challenges).

“Also, my marketing strategies have been poor of late but I love the response I am getting from the few people who know about my work and art.”

Tererai is however happy that a number leading Zimbabwean celebrities are beginning to recognize his exceptional talent and are now seeking for his work.

“I did a design for Soul Jah Love in January (this year). I also design for Pastor Olinda Marowa who wears my labels.

“My tshirts have been worn by artists such as Shinsoman, Lkat from Kwekwe, producer TMan of Mt Zion Records, Zima-award nominee MzoeSeven, DjMzoe, Maskiri, ExQ, Goodchild, Stunner and other upcoming artists.

I have been working with upcoming artists mostly because it allows me to experiment and learn without too much pressure,” he said without bragging.

Added Tererai: “My products and everything i will be doing will be available in selected shops countrywide but I am targeting Bulawayo and Harare first. All along people have been getting orders directly from me via my facebook page (Bulawayo Hustler) or through my phone.”

Tererai, who is currently pursuing a degree in Development Studies at Lupane State University, did his primary education at Zimondi School in Chivhu and secondary (form 1-6) at Mahusekwa High School near Marondera.

Source : The Herald