History will be made on 11 February, when the first ever Zimbabwean-based fashion designer exhibits at the prestigious New York Fashion Week where models will also be wearing clothes by names like Jason Wu, Calvin Klein, and Victoria Beckham.
David Alford Harare, led by creative director David Alford, is building on the successes of 2016 — a time when Alford’s clothing was displayed at fashion events in Ghana, France, and Kenya, and earned the brand Best Designer Couture at the Style Oracle Fashion Awards and Designer of the year at the Zimbabwe Models Awards 2016.
Alford is originally from Essex just outside of London, and came to Zimbabwe in 2011 on holiday, but ended up staying to design garments from a studio in Highlands.
“At the time it seemed a strange destination to visit, but now as I look back it strongly feels I came here for a reason,” says Alford.
While Alford’s designs are influenced by Africa, he dismisses any labelling of his work as Zimbabwean or even African, suggesting that design concepts are unique to individuals, and don’t have to be tied to a region or culture.
“I tend to get bored of people putting fashion in a box and limiting it. Fashion to me is about creating stories, a bit of fantasy for people. It has to come from the individual and what is feeding their mind at that time, regardless of where you are living. I am always told how different my work is for Zimbabwe but for me it is just part of me and what I do,” says Alford.
Visitors to the show in New York will hear the name Zimbabwe as Alford’s collection titled On the Precipice is showcased, but Alford’s focus is on the broader impact of mankind on the environment.
The collection is described as follows:
“On the Precipice is inspired and influenced by one of the 7 natural wonders of the world — The Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is diminishing to a point of up to 67% in certain areas with it suspected to take up to 15 years to recover if at all and has taken somewhere in the region of 25 million years to develop to its present day state. Many contributing factors have caused the demise of the reef, both man-made and natural causes and it was this idea of two polar opposites which made Creative Director David Alford begin to look into how he could bring a collection together that resembles the process of something living and dying.”
Alford told Harare News that whilst he does the designing, he has a team who assist with actually putting the clothes together — printing, cutting, and sewing. They have been frantically busy making sure every stitch is perfect, and the process will run right up to the last minute on 7 February when they fly with the garments to set up in New York.
Alford believes the local industry has some way to go before it can really stamp itself on the international scene, and he hopes to play his part in getting African designers up a notch.
“As we have done many international shows I have seen a distinct lack of knowledge and education across African fashion, it all seems very ‘samey’ and lacks any skills in cutting or sewing.
“This is something I would like to look to change by being based in Harare. We live in a beautiful country surrounded by urban and natural influences and plenty of stories to be told, I think designers need to use that!” says Alford.