Feminism is described as the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of equality of sexes. The movement may not be new but it has definitely undergone a radical change in recent years, on a global scale. Young women the world over are starting to recognise their own power, role and voice in the conversation. Young women of African descent are starting to get stronger vocally about their involvement in or affiliation with the feminist movement. They do this whilst living in countries that continue to uphold belief systems that keep women down.
In most cultures and professions, men reign supreme. In fashion, which is traditionally seen as a woman’s area, men are the biggest earners in this field and most competitive designers. Even in womenswear men set trends for women and we all love to wear or be inspired by them.
In Zambia the best tailors that can be found are often men. It seems there just aren’t enough women apparently out there. To many it is seen as women fighting men in a woman’s field. A very bizarre feminism fight.
In Zambia one young creative is using her skills and creative talent to add her voice to the conversation is Mwenge Kapumpa, an emerging womenswear designer born and raised in Lusaka. Her clothing line, named ‘Lace by Mwenge’ has been growing steadily over the past three years and with a successful Zambia Fashion Week debut in 2015, she is heading for the top.
We sat down at her studio/work space in Lusaka’s Rhodespark neighbourhood to discuss her finding her feet, favourite things and Feminism of course. “All Women should be feminists” she says while taking a sip of her coffee. The young designer feels that more women should not feel intimidated by the weight of the word but instead wear it proudly in order to change the way society treats women.
Lace takes inspiration from women from all walks of life, career paths and interests, but keeps its promise of making every woman feel great about themselves with each garment they purchase. The designer is also highly inspired by local brands Esnoko and Kamanga wear, as well as international brands like Dianne Von Furstenburg, David Tlale and Elie Saab.
Regarding her position in the Zambian fashion industry, Mwenge feels she is adding value with her strong emphasis on the quality of each garment. Her designs are brought to life with the help of two incredibly skilled tailors who make sure every fit is perfect. “I also feel like doing womenswear, especially my bridal wear and evening gowns also adds value because people no longer have to get wedding dresses from abroad,” she adds.
Mwenge has tried to bring a different approach to her design from the norm. She says we need to see design as artistic expression that is of value and we need to document and speak about the process of creating our work. Social media has been one of the ways she has managed to grow her label in the very few years of its existence.
“The growth of a person’s self believe and ‘self-love’ also show in how decisive and trusting of themselves they are, artist and creators and the most emotive and we feel the most. My brand is there to embrace all things feminine and putting them forward and saying women are sexy and beautiful and women really deserve to feel that way, we want women to feel powerful in their just BEING a woman and no other reason apart from that. I think that’s empowering enough” she said.
The challenges of living in a conservative country like this Zambia are amplified when navigating the creative sphere especially the fashion world. Mwenge, however tackles this by creating outfits that are still classy and socially acceptable enough for any woman to wear. Lace is a brand that represents femininity and power, the message is very clear and it is one of the ways Mwenge feels she can empower Zambian women to feel comfortable in their own skin.
Mwenge understands that her challenges aren’t due to being a woman adding that “running a business is hard as it is” and that she doesn’t believe that being a woman necessarily adds extra layers to that hardship but is a unique experience on its own.
The young designer attributes her success to her supportive parents, siblings and friends, they have also been one of the ways through which she has acquired new clients. Her parents were clear from the beginning that she had to make her business legitimate by registering with all the authorities and making sure she had a space to work from.
To encourage young women who intend to pursue a career in fashion, Mwenge says “people should pursue their passions wholeheartedly however they should also remember to acquire some skills and do their research.” She emphasised that setting up any business isn’t easy but encourages young women to strive for perfection and growth in all they do.
She is definitely aiming for greatness with a new collection slated for the end of the year. Expect “Super glamorous, feminine and flirty designs” as she describes them to empower Zambian women young and old.
Feminism in Zambia is growing, and so is the number of young women who aren’t afraid to wear the label shamelessly in order to empower themselves and their communities. Young women in the Zambian creative and entertainment industries are waking up to their potential and importance. The power of one person’s voice in any sector can change the way women are viewed and treated in Zambia society, Mwenge is simply adding a little lace to the feminism conversation.
You can also claim your femininity, order a design by searching for ‘Lace by Mwenge’ on Facebook or calling 0978614909.