Going Back to Basics: Creative Designer Rudo Nondo on The Current State of Fashion in a Covid19 World

Enlightened by the Covid -19 pandemic to go back to the basics, and in the process learning how to breath, Rudo Nondo who is the founder of the brand Anaia, shares on her participation in the UNDP Beyond Now: Reimagining society campaign, her experience during this pandemic, and how she has managed to adjust to the ‘new normal’.

Can you tell us about your involvement in the UNDP Beyond Now: Reimagining society Campaign. Why did you decide to get on board for this?

I was one of the collaborating designers and I chose to get on board as it prompted me to start immersing in what I believed to be the new way of working and start to implement circular design in this new society we are living in. I was excited about this project as I worked on it during lockdown and had to make the pieces using material that was already in the house.

Please tell us about your designs for the campaign?

All of the pieces were made using material I already had in the house and were made using off cuts from previous collections. All the designs were simple and interchangeable and tied in with my belief of creating multifunctional pieces as a way to buy less but get more looks.

How important do you think Zimbabwean Creatives coming together and collaborating is, in contributing to the growth of the Creative Industry in this country?

It is very important as this is how we share ideas and test new concepts and share resources. Collaboration is key in our growth as we all have various strengths and together we produce amazing work. This project saw creatives from the fashion and design industry coming together with creatives from the visual arts and the end product was just magic.

2020 has been a tough year for all fields because of Covid-19. How has the pandemic affected the fashion industry, particularly in Zimbabwe?

Our industry has been greatly affected as globally many retailers have cancelled or failed to pay for existing orders with manufacturers which has left makers in the red. As the industry is largely informal in Zimbabwe many small businesses have suffered as they have not had a great demand for their pieces. Spending power has been greatly reduced and this has contributed to a drop in sales.
In light of this pandemic we are getting back to basics and for most this means turning away from the high street retailers and turning more to smaller boutiques or retailers for more specialised products.
The demand has also grown for mostly athleisure wear as most people are working from home which has resulted in a change in design aesthetic.

The whole world has had to reimagine life and create ‘new normals’ because of the pandemic and that is what this campaign is all about. Has your brand managed to adjust to the new normal and what are the results?

We had started to turn our brand ethos before the pandemic hit and were turning to a more circular method of design which was centred around a reduction in pre and post-consumer waste that meant using up all our fabric and offcuts and also producing in very small batches. The adjustment has been quite easy for us as we are now fully immersed in sustainable way of working which has allowed us to reduce waste and operation costs.

How do we, as the consumers of fashion, reimagine our relationship with it in this reimagined post Covid society? Any insights from you as a pioneer and creative in this field?

We really need to evaluate our buying habits as pre Covid-19 we were stuck in a cycle of over consumption. As the world has slowed down our needs have been reduced so I am hoping that we will start to make conscious purchasing decisions before going in and buying more clothes. Now is the time as consumers to have a look at how to extend our clothing lifecycle by taking better care of our clothes and consider mending them and repairing them before throwing them out or buying new clothes. As consumers we must also look at alternative ways of shopping such as clothes swaps.

Have there been any positive aspects that you have drawn from this whole experience? (Covid-19)

I have learnt to slow down and to really put some thought into what I’m doing before “just doing” things. I have found that there is a lot more meaning to what I do when I fully immerse myself in the process from beginning to end. I have learnt to appreciate everything and see the beauty in things I often missed when I was constantly on the go. I have learnt to breathe!

Can you give us an exclusive sneak peek into your image of a post Covid-19 society in Zimbabwe? What does your reimagined society beyond now look like?

My image of this society is one that is considerate and respectful of all people and nature. One where we are creating safe spaces where we are regenerating and sowing into the next generation.

Let’s talk about you outside the campaign; The name Anaia? How did it come about? What is the inspiration and story behind it?

The name Anaia is Hebrew for ‘God Answers’. I started my journey in this industry in 2013 following a season where I was actively seeking God to reveal my purpose. In that season this seed was planted in my life and I have been nurturing it ever since throughout every season. Interestingly I had never imagined I would ever be working in the fashion industry let alone designing and making clothes or advocating for fashion sustainability but that’s God right! His plans are always higher than your own plans!

What ignites your creative process? Where do you get your inspiration from?

I mainly get my inspiration from the environment. I love nature and everything in it, that is why you find most of my work is earth toned/neutral with the occasional bursts of color. Everything I make is simply sophisticated as I design pieces that I would also love to wear and be comfortable in. Lately I have been designing around stories and the amazing people around me and our joint experiences.

You were part of the YALI training in 2016, how has the experience helped you in your entrepreneurship journey?

Th experience taught me to put community first and to always look at the bigger picture. Following the experience I have been more open to trying new things out and incorporating purpose into everything I do. I now look at my wider community and how what I do will impact them.

You won the #HerArt Pop Up Creativity grant in 2018, tell us more about the project idea for that grant?

The project idea layers were based on five women I had met in my design journey from three different countries within the rural and urban setting who had all made an impact on me in those locations. Each woman had a distinct story to tell and though located in these different places had one common factor and that was they were creatives from Zimbabwe. In the project each woman shared their story and this was presented through art; sound and music and clothes.

As the year is coming to an end, any new projects from Rudo Nondo to look forward to in 2021?

2020 taught me that you really never know what’s coming but what I am hoping for is that in 2021 you will find Rudo Nondo collaborating with more amazing Creatives and continuing to explore the circular design journey.

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