23 March 2019

Zimbabwe: From Jah Prayzah to Highlanders Football Club

... designer transforming brands across sectors

He made a name in South Africa where he dressed some celebrities for big occasions.

Working with celebrities the likes of Vuyo Mokoena, S'fiso Ncwane, Lira and DJ Mroza made fashion designer Thembani Mbochwa popular SA showbiz. As he dressed those popular names in a foreign land, his wish to do it for stars back home grew stronger.

Today his heart beams with satisfaction. Since his return from SA in 2017, Mubochwa has worked with local celebrities, sportspersons and businessmen from all walks of life. And he is proud that his touch is transforming brands. With a strong resume that includes showcasing at the African Union fashion show in Addis Ababa, the talented designer is using his exposure to bring new fashion trends. He got the attention of most people locally when he became Jah Prayzah's personal designer. Their relationship began when he designed the musician's stage outfit for the launch of his album "Kutonga Kwaro".

Mubochwa has been the musician's designer since then. He got an office at the house where JP Studios and Military Touch Movement are based. The designer and Jah Prayzah meet daily to discuss styles for next big occasions.

Mubochwa's growing popularity has seen him working with many other celebrities including football teams FC Platinum and Highlanders. His recent engagement with Highlanders will see him working on the club's merchandise in addition to making formal outfits for the team. He said the arrangement is similar to his engagement with Jah Prayzah because he will be responsible for many facets of the team's fashion brands.

Mubochwa has also been involved in wildlife conservation awareness projects that include his popular Elephant dress that was donned by musician Selmor Mtukudzi at some local events.

The move saw the designer being appointed ambassador for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Local celebrities that Mubochwa has dressed for important occasions include Pastor Charles Charamba, Alick Macheso, Chamu Chiwanza, Hazvinei Sakarombe, Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa, Vimbai Mutinhiri, Trevor Dongo, Ex-Q, Nutty O and Tatenda Mahachi.

The designer says he has travelled a long journey in fashion and cherishes the experiences that have led him to be involved with some of the country's big brands in sports and showbiz.

"It has not been an easy road. I am glad that determination has taken me this far. When I relocated to South Africa after doing a few general designs here, I was privileged to work with celebrities from that country. It gave me exposure and I learnt a lot in the fashion business," said Mubochwa.

"My desire was always to come back home and contribute to the growth of the local fashion industry. I used to design for many celebrities here while I was still in South Africa. When I finally got back home in 2017, I was prepared to penetrate the local market."

He said Jah Prayzah approached him after learning about his outstanding display at the African Union fashion showcase.

"It was towards the launch of 'Kutonga Kwaro' and he invited me to his office. He said he wanted a personal designer and we agreed on terms of the professional relationship. Since then, I have been designing the band's stage attire and most of Jah Prayzah's off-stage outfits. We meet at the office everyday to discuss fashion."

Jah Prayzah's manager Keen Mushapaidze said their relationship with Mubochwa has brought exciting results.

"We have been working with him for two years and the relationship has brought about new ideas and new styles. He makes sure that the band looks well on stage. He has done outfits for most of Jah Prayzah's videos for the past two years. He is talented and we will continue working with him," said Mushapaidze.

Highlanders vice-chairman Modern Ngwenya said they are pleased to work with Mubochwa.

"He designed branded suits for the entire executive and everyone is talking about his designs. I personally loved his style and he has now done many suits for me. He is exceptional in his work and that is why he is an award-winner. He will soon do something for the whole team. We have confidence in him," said Ngwenya.

Selmor Mtukudzi, who has worked with Mubochwa since he was in South Africa, said the designer has enhanced her brand.

"Themba is an excellent designer. He has done many of my stage outfits and the style is great. We worked together in the wildlife conservation project when I donned his elephant dress and we put a good message across. I am glad to work with such a talented designer," said Selmor.

FC Platinum spokesperson Chido Chizondo was also full of praises for Mubochwa. The team went on international assignments wearing Mubochwa's designs.

"He can easily adjust to customer needs. We told him what the team wanted and he did exactly that. Every time a need arises, we will go to Mubochwa. He is the best. I have also engaged him as my personal designer and he has done exquisite outfits for me," said Chizondo.

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