Harare was abuzz with HIFA a few months back! Although I have lived in Zimbabwe all my life, I had never attended HIFA. The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) is one of Africa’s largest international arts festivals. Established in 1999 by Manuel Bagorro the festival takes place each year in late April in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. The week long festival encompasses five principal disciplines: theatre, music, dance, fine art, and poetry.
I attended HIFA with a keen interest on the Fashion on display, which was cleverly coined “HIFashion”. My first stop was Trash Queen at the Hivos Poetry Cafe and Design Stage at the Harare Gardens. The concept behind Trash Queen was to, “question the idea of fashion and art, by providing a challenge to designers – To create original and innovative pieces using recycled materials. An interactive show, where the audience would be given an opportunity to create their own pieces using ‘trash’ which would then be judged in the final show. This exciting concept would bring out creativity and challenge the idea of fashion. Submissions could be made before and during the Festival.”
Trash Queen played out as a fashion display more than an interactive creative event. All the designs showcased appeared to have been made before hand and there was little interaction with the audience. It was only at the end that the audience was given the opportunity to vote for their favorite design.
Back to the show itself! It reminded me of the same monotonous Zimbabwe Fashion Shows. Although the description highlighted that the show was intended to “challenge” the idea of fashion, I personally think the era of dresses made out of plastic bottles and cans has come and gone and as such we should also progressively move along.
I follow with keen interest what’s going on globally with the green movement and fashion and I can safely say we have been left behind. Every time there is mention of recycling or Eco-fashion, out come the plastic bottles and candy wrappers to substitute fabric. We seem to have missed the memo that Eco-fashionable designs can also be wearable! I have always imagined fashion shows to be platforms to increase the visibility of designers and a place to introduce their designs to the public. From this space are we able to relate to the designer and hopefully this leads to consumers purchasing the designs. I would like to believe that every one of us would at some point in their life to profit from their talents and somehow I don’t see how making bottle dresses will result in that. Arguably fashion is a form of art, however we shouldn’t over estimate the value of the art being produced. This is to say, after the fashion show is over and done with, how many of the designers can truthfully say they have earned a decent living from making dresses out of used bottles and cans. Unless one gets a deal with Lady Gaga it is highly unlikely.
I think it’s time we rethink Eco-fashion and the way in which we interpret the concept of recycled material. A quick search online will show that beautiful practical garments can be made from recycled fabric. Other ways to address green fashion is rethinking green! A green garment can be one made from cotton that was grown in a sustainable green way. I think it is important for Zimbabwe to step away from the predictable and impractical way of selling Eco-fashion. It is time we embrace the green movement but ensure that the designer benefits from their creations and that consumers feel comfortable and confident to wear clothing with a green label on it!
We have two major fashion events coming up in a few months. Hopefully we will see new and fresh ideas where green fashion is concerned at both shows!