Grad Guide 2020: Asanda Mgobhozi

Born and raised in Durban, Asanda Mgobhozi is a fashion design graduate from Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) who intends to preserve African identity and cultural roots through her designs. Her impeccable talent has landed her a spot in our annual graduate showcase series. In an interview with the up-and-coming designer, she opened up about her years as a student and her plans to come.

Asanda Mgobhozi

Where and what did you study? What was your experience like?

I studied in fashion design at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Studying there felt like a dream because I constantly could not believe that I was finally following my dreams of becoming a fashion designer. However, it did have some hardships, since I was not able to get funding for my course and solely had to rely on my mother who is a single parent for everything. I also had to push myself very hard throughout my time in CPUT because I had juggle between part-time jobs and doing custom designs for clients just to help me buy the supplies that I needed for school.

What inspired you to pursue a path in fashion?

Fashion to me has always been a calling since I was very young. I realised that wanted to be a fashion designer by grade two when I drew my first female full figure, and also my mom loved buying clothes for us growing up and I absolutely love that rush of getting new clothes and trying them on, and of course, modelling for the whole family once we try them on. My journey to pursue fashion was quite an interesting one because I first studied something totally different from fashion which was community and development studies, because I was so afraid of not succeeding and getting a job after studying fashion. At that time studying anything that was artistic was considered as “waste of time” and a “bad career choice” in our black community.

However, I was blessed enough that my loving mother has never put that kind of pressure on me in any way but has been extremely supportive in everything that I do in life. It was me who pressured myself at that time not to do fashion because of my desperation to succeed and give my mom and siblings a great life one day. However, after struggling to find a job straight after my qualification and of course going through the depression that comes along with unemployment, I decided to go back to school the following year and actually start pursuing my dream of becoming a fashion designer because I did not want to go through another year of waiting again for a job. This was the best decision that I have ever made in whole my life.

Tell us about your graduate collection in terms of inspiration, style, concept and construction.

My graduate collection is about the reclamation of our power and identity from the colonists who once invaded our nation and introduced the Western culture to us, which has made us forget who we really are as Africans before we were untouched by them. I am a very proud Zulu girl who is madly in love with every inch of my culture and I really wanted to portray that in my very first collection and just celebrate it and my love for it. The style of my collection is Afrocentric and the construction of it was quite time consuming since it had a lot of beading in it that I did myself because I really to push myself with getting the overall outcome of the collection that I was after. My collection is also quite relieving as well in the breast area intentionally to portray Zulu maidens. I then styled the collections with accessories from the Zulu and Ndebele cultures.

How would you describe your approach or philosophy as a fashion designer?

My philosophy as a fashion designer is to try and preserve our identity and keep it alive for generations to come because I’m constantly concerned with how fast technology, fashion trends and just the world as a whole is constantly changing – and it is inevitably making us forget about our roots.

Who would you most like to collaborate with in the local fashion industry?

I would love to collaborate with Rich Mnisi, IMPRINT and Laduma MaXhosa because I love how in tune they are with themselves with their identity as Africans. I feel like they are also the pioneers whole will keep the African identity alive for many years to come.

What are your plans for 2021?

My plans for 2021 is to pursue filmmaking because I want to tell African stories with my clothing through my lens from now on. I also just want to work really hard on getting my brand out there, work on more fashion films and just keep on doing what I love to do – celebrating Africa in my work and educating people along the way. I will also work on the foundations of my organisation that I would like to start hopefully next year of sewing classes for young girls in my community.

Follow @swelihle_clothing on Instagram.

Grad Guide is an annual series from Between 10and5, profiling some of South Africa’s most exciting creative graduates across the fields of fashion, art, photography and design. Find the full 2021 Grad Guide here

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