By Ezinne Mgbeahuruike, Contributor
Zimbabwean designer Farai Simoyi is the creator of a sustainable fashion lifestyle brand called Farai. Amongst many of her business ventures, Farai focuses on the people and planet; she sources product by using up-cycled or vintage fabric which, in turn, reduces clothing and textile waste. Farai’s love for fashion and design has given her the opportunity to present at New York Fashion Week in 2015, design for Nicki Minaj’s line in collaboration with Kmart, and collaborate with Beyonce’s House of Dereon with Macy’s. Fast forward three years, Farai has launched a concept store called TNT , where she houses luxury brands sourced from African artisans. We spoke to Farai about her experience in the retail industry.
How did you get into fashion and design?
The idea that fashion was something I could do as a career started at young age. My aunt ran a lingerie factory in Zimbabwe. When I was five, she exported goods in and out of South Africa and my family would help and support her business. The idea of creativity as a business has been ingrained in me since then. I studied psychology my freshman year of college, which helped me realize that I liked to help others. But I later changed my major to fashion and merchandising which I graduated in with a Bachelor of Science.
How did TNT come about?
TNT is a concept store in partnership with Ryan Wiltshire, who specializes in marketing and branding for various fashion brands. We thought it would be great to collaborate together since his speciality is featuring luxury brands in pop-up stores. It only made sense that we share this space together.
How does your brand work with other designers in Africa?
The idea of the store is to use the other umbrella of my brand which is called the The Narativ to source products from merchants and artisans from Africa and sell them here at TNT. I wanted to showcase how talented African designers were while helping them mold their business, set-up pricing models, get their products online, teach them how to run a business while putting their products in the American market. The Narativ serves as a middleman to help these artisans do just that.
What advice would you give anyone that wants to start a retail business?
Retail is constantly changing so I think being tech-savvy is extremely helpful. I often watch Apple to see how their customer responds to their business. It’s important to understand why someone should want to give their money to you. To me, technology has helped me study how to stay current in retail so I study the industry to stay on trend.
How did you land opportunities with Nicki Minaj and Beyonce?
I was at the right place and right time and I was ready. I was hired by an African woman who was the creative director for Beyonce and it all just kind of happened. With Nicki Minaj, a friend reached out for me to work with her line at Kmart because they saw my work and performance with Beyonce. From there, it all just happened.
What are the challenges of the business?
I think right now I’m trying to figure out the operational aspect of the store. A lot of brands I source from in Africa don’t have capital. This means they don’t have the money to sell me goods. So I’m currently looking to get more equity, find more ways to invest in artisans and gain insights from our customers on what’s selling or not.