NATAi NATAi: For the Simply Sophisticated Woman
One of the reasons why fashion is such a powerful economic driver, is the fact that it is female friendly. As the fashion industry’s economic relevance continues to become more significant, women are taking strides in creating employment in the industry. In most economies, fashion is helping young women realize their creative voices, bringing their A-game to the fashion playing field, despite the many challenges they face. NATAi NATAi is among the key female fashion brands which are paving ways for the fashion industry in Zimbabwe.
NATAi NATAi is a women's fashion brand with a focus on fun, day to night pieces that accentuate the feminine physique, while maintaining a great sense of style and sophistication. The brand’s goal is to offer a collection of pieces that are versatile, transcend time, and make one feel confident, sexy and effortlessly chic! Truthfully, NATAi NATAi is for every woman, because they are centered on celebrating all bodies. Because of their mission they have attracted and aligned with confident and outgoing women. Every woman who walks through their doors has a beaming face and sense of living a full life, from the well-known to working woman and everyone in-between.
NATAi NATAi was born in 2019, by a young lady called Cheryl Johnson. She founded the brand drawing inspiration from her mother, who was a tailor, and went on to name the brand after her. After completing her studies in the United States, Cheryl moved back to Zimbabwe in 2015. At the time, she did not have any capital to start her business, and she struggled to find steady employment in Harare until 2017, when she was hired as a Sales Representative at a local paint manufacturing company. It was from this job, that Cheryl was able to acquire savings which she used to start her first fashion business. The first fashion business that Cheryl ran, was focused on selling unique and trendy women's clothing pieces, at local flea market in Harare, Zimbabwe. As time passed, the number of visitors at the flea markets dwindled to a point where she had to discontinue selling. This plummeting of sales meant her first attempt at building a fashion business had failed, but this did not discourage her.
Drawing inspiration from her mother who was a tailor, Cheryl decided to launch a sustainable, locally manufactured women's clothing brand, a move that would allow her to incorporate her passion for photography, fashion and business. Using the knowledge and expertise she had acquired from her educational background and creative experiences, she collaborated with a variety of tailors and small-batch manufacturers to create NATAi NATAi’s first dress samples. In January 2019, NATAi NATAi was successfully launched. The response to the brand was overwhelmingly positive, and this encouraged the passionate entrepreneur to move into a small workspace where she worked with one tailor at the time. As the business grew, the company moved into a bigger design space that accommodates the clothing brand's current workshop and showroom, which in turn, houses other local female-owned brands.
Since launching, the young brand has been growing steadily, accumulating its share of highlights along the way. For instance, NATAi NATAi has been highlighted in Glamour South Africa, NATAAL Media and Ndeipi Magazine, which is a Zimbabwean monthly publication. Additionally, NATAi NATAi was featured in the Fashion Futures Project, an exhibition hosted by NATAAL Media and The British Council to highlight young designers and artists revolutionizing Zimbabwe's fashion eco-system. As the brand continues to grow, its hope is to make more strides in Zimbabwe’s fashion industry, whilst being kinder to the environment. NATAi NATAi believes that small steps taken in the right direction can make a great impact. As such, using locally sourced fabrics, the brand produces its pieces as per order to avoid waste through the production of excess stock.
In its quest for growth, NATAi NATAi has not been immune to the challenges that are faced by other young businesses. One of the biggest challenges the brand has experienced, and is still facing, is scaling up their production due to lack of accessibility to its products from people world-wide. Extremely high shipping fees have made it difficult to cater to an international audience. As such, NATAi NATAi’s pieces are only available to purchase in Zimbabwe and South Africa. However, the brand is open to the prospects of expanding into other countries. While the brand is in a process of navigating other markets, NATAi NATAi continues focusing on its local clientele, creating quality pieces and perfecting its craft, in preparation for when it becomes possible for it to supply its merchandise for the global market.
Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as a brand
Although NATAi NATAi pieces are made on order, the company has been set back by the pandemic, especially in terms of being able to deliver to its South African market. Nonetheless, there has still been an increase in demand for locally produced clothing, as the delivery time frame is shorter than purchasing from international clothing brands whose delivery times may be lengthened due to COVID-19.
With Zimbabwe going in and out of lockdown, NATAi NATAi’s production has been affected. Fortunately, because of its made-to-order business model, the brand has managed to avoid waste and higher costs created by readily available stock.
Perceptions on the future of the African fashion industry
“African fashion is an emerging market so it's really cool to witness a new generation of African designers taking center stage on the global fashion scene. I feel as if most African designers approach their work with a strong sense of ethics and a mission to revitalize their local industries so I believe Africa will play a huge role in the development of sustainable fashion.
NATAi NATAi is a made-to-order brand just like most other African fashion brands and our mission is rooted in utilizing traditional techniques and locally sourced fabrics to create sustainable quality pieces.
My advice to upcoming entrepreneurs is to just start and don't be afraid of making mistakes or failing. We are all learning and mistakes are an opportunity to rethink what you thought you knew, to strategize and to reconnect with your vision.” – Cheryl, Founder of NATAi NATAi.
At the moment, NATAi NATAi is focusing on its summer collection and creating systems that will allow it to be prepared, in case the country goes back into lockdown. Cheryl noted that “the pandemic has taught us that you need to expect the unexpected and so you always have to stay ahead and be prepared for anything, but that's just business in general.”
To view more of NATAi NATAi’s work visit: www.natainatai.com