In honour of National Women’s Day taking place on the 9th of August, we reached out to four men in fashion who draw inspiration from women
GAVIN RAJAH – Creative Director of Gavin Rajah Pret-a-Vivre and UN Goodwill Ambassador
AFI: Over the course of your 25 years in the industry, what role have women played in your career?
Gavin Rajah: Women are at the core of everything I do. Strong women who do not see their femininity as a compromise to being assertive, bold, and courageous in the spaces they occupy. These women who go about their lives fearlessly and passionately conquering their dreams and wishes have the greatest impact on my creativity. I design for these women who dream of a better world for all, create a better world for all, and at the same time uplift the people around them.
AFI: With the awareness that fashion has a long history of being a male-dominated industry, what do you think the fashion industry needs to do to create more equality?
Gavin Rajah: Women need to occupy more space in fashion. Their voices need to be heard more – after all, they wear clothes and contribute to a staggering trillion-dollar industry! We need to nurture more female talent in fashion and need to support women in the industry. I think in SA we often forget that we have Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe that has ventured boldly into the fashion industry and who has taken on the overwhelming task of championing a modern positioning of African designers in the world – an inspiration to many and an example of a woman with a vision.
TROY MASSA – Sierra Leonese-American Creative Director and Africa Gives Back International Philanthropist
AFI: We see women taking centre-stage in your work, where you unashamedly celebrate African women, heritage, and beauty. Who is the one woman who has had the most influence on your creativity?
Troy Massa: One woman who has had the greatest impact on my creativity is my mother. I believe creativity stems from cultures. From a young age, my mother instilled culture in me. Because of this, I believe you should use your culture to your benefit in order to expand your sense of creativity that is not hindered by any limitations.
AFI:What is are your words of encouragement to the women of the African continent?
Troy Massa: Women of the continent should not be afraid to be creative. They shouldn’t be afraid to be entrepreneurs either. Look at yourself as a trendsetter – all eyes are on Africa right now, so that means all eyes are on you right now. It’s your time. Understand that you are a powerful woman and that creativity stems from you! Why do you think we call Africa “Mama Africa” or the “Motherland”? Be confident in your creativity.
seth shezi – Tastemaker, Influencer, and Artist
AFI: As someone who many people consider to be a trendsetter, can you recall the two women who you draw fashion inspiration from, and who have informed your sartorial sensibilities from an early age?
Seth Shezi: There are two women who have played a role in informing my sense of style.
The first is my mom. She loved a good photo opportunity. When going to church, she would always wear the most dramatic fascinator hats. Her sense of style made me view fashion and adornment as a conscious form of self-expression from a really young age, which led to fights with my grandma when I’d insist on dressing myself for church!
The second was Khanyi Dhlomo. She came from the same place in Durban, where I grew up, and she was the ‘prize’ of the location. She was stunning, stylish, and poised. This was back in the 90s and now we know and follow each other on Instagram – so in a way she’s part of my world, yet my admiration of her hasn’t changed at all!
mzukisi mbane – Creative Director of Imprint
AFI: Imprint has earned a reputation for creating form-flattering garments for men and women around the world. Who would you say is your muse?
Mzukisi Mbane: Imprint has always drawn inspiration from women. With our very first collection called “Our roots”, we were greatly inspired by women’s creativity, beauty, and their ability to love wholeheartedly. The combination of all these elements is what birthed our signature use of strong and bold imprint cuts.
In addition to this, my mother, my clients, and South African personality, Lerato Sengadi, have all become fashion muses of Imprint.
AFI: What message would you like to give to the women of Africa, during Women’s Month?
Mzukisi Mbane: It’s interesting that most times fashion is looked at as this ‘bored or rich housewives’ thing. But to many, fashion is their power and their voice. My mother once told me that she was in an abusive marriage and fashion entrepreneurship was her key to getting out of that – her key to independence. She passed that gift on to me and she allowed me to find my self and to be at peace. So I would like to encourage women to use and see fashion as a vehicle to their independence and freedom of expression.