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In honor of Zambian Independence Day, we spotlight the multi-hyphenate creatives empowering a new generation of style enthusiasts.

Sekayi Fundafunda

Oct 25, 2021

With a largely obscure fashion industry, Zambia is best known for its thriving textile industry which grew considerably in the 1970s. Bolstered by significant government support through an incentive program, the country’s manufacturing sector grew substantially by over 7% between 1964 and 1980. However, the democratization of the industry due to the implementation of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) in the 1990s led to increased competition from foreign countries with more developed production sectors. This non-native intervention contributed to the subsequent collapse of Zambia’s local manufacturing sector.

As we approach the end of October, celebrating 57 years of independence and self-governance, Zambia’s renewed role within the continent’s creative landscape comes to the fore. However, the Zambian fashion industry has faced significant challenges in developing end-to-end solutions, particularly in building the infrastructure required for sustained fashion innovation—from tax incentives to brick-and-mortar infrastructure. Despite a vibrant history and diverse culture, Zambia is a traditionally conservative society, seeking what is considered respectable and orthodox over the fluidity and individuality that fashion is known for worldwide.

But for these six industry-wide players, Zambia’s fashion industry presents a unique opportunity for re-definition, both locally and regionally. Their work captures a striking dichotomy, embracing a sector that is at once fixated with identifying its unique identity while embracing the gift that this ambiguity delivers in navigating the constantly shifting definitions of African fashion.

From Marian Chileshe’s call to intentional consumerism to Chief Kenzo’s fluid representations of masculinity, Zambian fashion is developing through the influence of these style sensations. Read on to discover the new school of trendsetters reconceiving the Zambian fashion scene.

Marian Chileshe 

The Founder and Blogger

Marian Chileshe has a way with clothes. Whether it’s a 15-second video on ‘How to style your mom jeans’ or a conversation about her style values, her eloquence and enthusiasm are discernible.

Chileshe’s worldview—fueled by constant evolution, self-expression, and intentional consumerism—is primarily shaped by her early exposure to the different cultures of her birthplace, Zambia, and the country she called home for 12 years, Botswana. Her introduction to the world of fashion came from her mother’s second-hand clothing business, trading items she would purchase in Zambia and re-sell during their time living in the neighboring country.

But while she lived and studied in Manchester, she developed an affinity for vintage fashion and thrifting. Fashion was her therapy and thrift stores provided a unique world of clothing for her to explore.

Chileshe began writing about her relationship with thrift shopping, which evolved into Finders Keepers, her on-and-offline second-hand space in Lusaka, Zambia. Chileshe’s approach—from the selection of the pieces in her store to the curation of her Instagram feed, seems to center, more than anything, the honest expression of self.

Marian Chileshe. Photo: Courtesy of Marian Chileshe

Finders Keepers upcycled 3 piece. Photo: Courtesy of Marian Chileshe

Marian Chileshe. Photo: Courtesy of Marian Chileshe

Bryan Manda

The Content Creator

Bryan Manda is a modern-day Jagari Chanda with an unmistakable, casual swagger, channeling the flamboyant and charismatic Zambian rockstar. Bryan, born and bred in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, was influenced by everything from his travels north to visit his grandparents to his mother’s sewing room, where she created her outfits. Growing up in this environment, Manda was unknowingly set on his path.

A digital content creator that stumbled onto the Zambian online fashion scene when it was still largely dominated by female creators, Manda merges the worlds of literature, fashion, and lifestyle. He invites his followers on a journey to explore a world outside the confines of their own, one in which they can explore fabric, texture, and movement.

 A walking juxtaposition—a genuine product of his environment, as well as the complete antithesis of what conservative Zambia asks—Manda seeks to convey one thing: liberation through fashion. 

Bryan Manada. Photo: Courtesy of Bryan Manda

Bryan Manada. Photo: Courtesy of Bryan Manda

Bryan Manada. Photo: Courtesy of Bryan Manda

Kenzo Onwuka

The Multidisciplinarian 

Popularly referred to as Chief Kenzo, Kenny Onwuka, born to a Zambian/Tanzanian mother and Nigerian father, accurately represents the diversity of what it means to be a modern-day Zambian.

As a multidisciplinary artist and entrepreneur, he is the founder of Sifuelo, a collective dedicated to “nuanced storytelling,” which defines Kenzo—from his garb to captions that explore our perceptions of expressionism. Kenzo epitomizes a generation of Zambian creators that re-imagine the boundaries around fashion, narrating stories grounded in a deep sense of national pride and embracing a fluid identity that at once fits nowhere and everywhere.

Kenzo’s approach centers on the practicality of fashion and his mandate: “clothing is just clothing, it is not gendered, it should not be racialized, or nationalized.” Through his work, Chief Kenzo seems to ask, ‘Is Zambian fashion only Zambian fashion if a Zambian creates it by blood or by soil?’, inviting his followers to explore their selfhood as open-ended. On the concept of belonging, Kenzo describes Zambianess as “being one too many things.” But, perhaps, just like Kenzo himself, it is a marriage of exciting elements.

Kenzo Onwuka. Photo: Courtesy of Kenzo Onwuka

Kenzo Onwuka. Photo: Courtesy of Kenzo Onwuka

Kenzo Onwuka. Photo: Courtesy of Kenzo Onwuka

Junse Liu

The Designer

‘Wearable art,’ ‘texture,’ ‘made-to-measure, ‘and ‘radiant’ are some words that come to mind when you come across the work of Junse Liu. A designer and creative director, Liu is based between Lusaka and Milan. As the brains behind his eponymous brand, Liu tells the story of Zambia and its fashion from a first-generation perspective, marrying his Chinese roots with his Zambian upbringing. And more recently, as a student of the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti (NABA), the design academy in Milan.

Liu bridges the gap between local craftsmanship and global design as referenced in his SS’21 collection using Zambian-grown and sun-dried maize cobs as a stencil for his pieces.

Underpinned by inclusivity and a call to move more slowly and intentionally, Liu crafts formless and gender-defying pieces—garments that invite their wearer to exist within their clothing. In doing so, he serves a growing generation of consumers looking beyond wax print and mass-market offerings as the vehicles through which they navigate the world.

Junse Liu SS‘22. Photo: Courtesy of Junse Liu

Junse Liu SS‘22. Photo: Courtesy of Junse Liu

Junse Liu SS‘22. Photo: Courtesy of Junse Liu

Niva Hankede 

The Digital Creator 

Born and raised in a small town in Zambia’s southern province, Mazabuka, Niva Hankede is a digital creator and photographer who rose to fame at university. He carved a space for himself in the Zambian fashion industry as a men’s style influencer. One gets the sense that Hankede strives towards something beyond his immediate environment: a life of luxury and ease, as he balances being both a Zambian and a global citizen. His evident drive is coupled with magnetic confidence, a combination that has helped him grow his Instagram following to over 32 thousand.

Perhaps it’s his exposure to more significant African fashion scenes over the years that feeds Hankede's hunger, driving him to break through the barriers created by a lack of infrastructural development and the post-colonial, religious influences on society’s perceptions of fashion.

Boasting sleek fits, attending exclusive parties, and sharing his vast travels, his lifestyle is a welcome form of escapism. It is highly aspirational for the average Zambian male fashion and travel enthusiast. 

Niva Hankede. Photo: via @niva_hankede

Niva Hankede. Photo: via @niva_hankede

Niva Hankede. Photo: via @niva_hankede

Amy Gabriella Malonda

The Stylist 

Amy Gabriella Malonda, a 26-year-old award-winning stylist and self-professed fashion connoisseur, exudes a relaxed and approachable demeanor. A Zambian stylist born in South Africa, Malonda’s career path has been driven by her love for fashion, which can be traced back to early childhood when she cut up fabric for her grandmother’s tailor to stitch. She was further influenced by her time studying in China and is constantly inspired by the similarities she finds across the various cultures she has been fortunate enough to immerse herself in.

Malonda is known for styling some of Zambia’s most prominent names including Lulu Haangala-Wood and Grace Tamara Ramsey, but it is her laid-back style—under the moniker ‘Aunty Stylish’—that has earned her thousands of followers. A shapeshifter, her approach is to push her clientele to embrace parts of themselves they may not have otherwise, encouraging them to explore their alter ego.

Ultimately, Malonda’s work seeks to encourage a heightened sense of individuality and, in this vein, supports the recognition of fashion and styling as a legitimate contributor to Zambia’s collective social-cultural development.

Amy Gabriella Malonda. Photo: via @aunty_stylishhh

Amy Gabriella Malonda. Photo: via @aunty_stylishhh

Amy Gabriella Malonda. Photo: via @aunty_stylishhh