Anisa Mpungwe was just nineteen years old when she embarked on her career as a fashion designer – little did she know she would go on to be celebrated as the first black female to win the coveted Elle New Talent Competition in 2008. Graduating from working in a small studio to opening her first flagship store in Johannesburg and founding her brand, Loin Cloth & Ashes in 2012, Anisa has established herself as one of Africa’s top Fashion Designers and has collaborated with renowned brands such as Samsung, Nestle and Bobbi Brown. Her designs gained even more international recognition when public figures such as Solange Knowles and Michelle Obama sported LCA outfits, but this is an experience Anisa broaches with caution.
“People do not always realise the risk of having a celebrity wear your clothing. There is always the risk of a bigger company copying the design and mass-producing it at a cheaper [price] or claiming that design so although it is great and has its benefits, at the end of the day it is all about the LCA customer,” she told She Leads Africa.
Born in Tanzania, Anisa moved to South Africa with her parents at a young age. She was never one to be particularly drawn to loud, African prints but when her mother returned from India with a whole new assortment of fabrics, Anisa got to work and churned out fifteen, 50s style skirts – all of which sold in just one week. This taught her an important lesson, one she has carried with her and always remembers when designing new collections for Loin Cloth & Ashes: finding the perfect balance between creating something she is passionate about and creating something the customers truly want. “The trick was to bring my personality to the new printed designs I was producing,” she told Entrepreneur Mag. In Tanzania, she found the type of prints she was looking for and now sources and imports them herself.
Loin Cloth & Ashes designs merge bold prints with simplistic cuts and balancing contrasts always focusing on a Neo-African point of view. Though the prints evoke visions of African heritage, they are not traditional in the sense of Ankara or Kente but rather, embrace a very own style that fits Anisa’s flair for uniquely subtle African touches perfectly. Her designs are available at affordable prices and she is currently branching out into junior and home wear, two niches she is very excited about. “There was a time when you went into a clothing store and it only offered clothing but now many brands are offering a lifestyle. So, if I can’t afford the dress, I can maybe afford to buy a napkin or to buy my little baby a dress. I wanted LCA to also follow that suit because we don’t only talk about women’s wear when we are in the studio, we talk about everything else,” she told She Leads Africa.
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