By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha
Harare, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwean fashion designer extraordinaire, Colin Ratisai, whose label is known as CZeerat, made a debut appearance at the Africa Fashion Week held in Johannesburg in October. For Ratisai, fashion is the ultimate expression of individuality which goes beyond what you see on the surface but can actually reflect an individual’s inner psychology.
Ratisai, 26, says that he was inspired to venture into the glamorous world of fashion at an early age especially when he discovered an affinity to put things together.
“I’ve always wanted to put together stuff since primary school. When I was young, I used to put together my own wardrobe and even advise other people,” said Ratisai whose immense talent and sophistication is clearly apparent in his eclectic designs.
His designs underscore a new genre of identity, culture and lifestyle which embodies the spirit of African themed design. The soft-spoken fashion designer said that the clean and perfect finish of his designs was largely influenced by his mother whom he said always maintained a prim, proper and classy look.
Ratisai also credits his sister, also a fashion designer, for influencing his career. He said that when his sister won the Zimbabwe Newbury Designer of the Year Aware in 1999, something stirred inside his spirit.
In 2003, Ratisai said he collaborated with Swaziland designer, Thobile Magagula, on a collection which consisted of a mix of traditional and modern designs. As a result of that collection, he managed to dress Chiwoniso, one of Zimbabwe’s internationally acclaimed songstresses, for her CD cover shoot.
“I designed a specific collection for that show, and the experience of going to Niger was a definite turning point in my career. It was at that point that I realized that fashion is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Being out in the middle of a desert with creative people amid all the glamour – models and camels – made me realize that there are no boundaries and for me that was it,” he said.
“I realized at one in Niger that I constantly wanted to be around a fashion atmosphere.” An opportunity to study at the Cape Town Haute Couture School of Fashion and Design for three years opened up for Ratisai in 2006 which helped to put a proper mold to his fledgling career. As part of his graduation project , he made a bead and wire craft collection which caught the eye of Michael Kra, one of the world’s top jewellers.
Working with Kra opened a new opportunity for Ratisai to work with a top South African fashion designer, Thulare Monareng as an Assistant Production Manager and worked on a collection that was presented at the inaugural Africa Fashion Week in 2009.
“I realized then that I was still just starting out in the industry but everything that I did gave me confidence. Little did I know that I was getting prepare to come and also put my own show at Africa Fashion Week which is by far the biggest fashion showcase on the continent,” he said.
Ratisai’s designs at the Africa Fashion Week were at once bold, cosmopolitan, avant garde and eclectic yet at their core they retain an Africa essence and an out-of-the box design quality that reflect his artistry and potential to leave a strong mark in an industry that a few Zimbabweans choose to dabble into.
“I’m inspired by nature so my surroundings play a very significant role in my designs. If I change my setting, it will definetely reflect in the designs. I am also inspired by individual characters and personalities,” he added. “I’m still experimenting and hunting for my signature but so far I want my designs to be clean and always with an element of bold accessory to it.”