Nefertari means “beautiful companion”. An Egyptian queen and wife of Ramses the Great, Nefertari is celebrated for her beauty and style. She’s a fitting inspiration for Tanyaradzwa Mushayi, who has always had a fascination with Kemet and ancient history. “I thought why not mix my Shona name with my obsession with Kemet.” So she married the two names together, and the Tanya Nefertari brand came into being.
Tanya Nefertari essentially means ‘we have been consoled by a beautiful companion’.
Becoming a Designer
Tanya hadn’t always wanted to be a designer. When she enrolled at university, she initially started studying travel and tourism. However, she knew deep down that she was following the wrong trajectory. It was a quote from 13th century philosopher Rumi that inspired Tanya to make a change: “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do”.
And she loved design – she’d been dabbling in it since high school. However, her love for design didn’t extend to fashion. “I was a bit of a fashion rebel growing up. I didn’t like to follow trends so when I chose the course I wanted to do, I picked Art and Design so I learn everything within design with no restraints.” Tanya’s artistic self thrived under this new direction, with her skills and talent improving over the years. “In hindsight, I used to be a quitter, but since figuring out how much I love to create I haven’t looked back or even thought of quitting since.”
Creating a Brand
It’s been a challenging but rewarding journey so far for Tanya and her brand. Working in Zimbabwe has presented its own difficulties. Dire economic conditions and an environment unfavourable to entrepreneurship and a creative economy has been the biggest hindrance. “One challenge in starting Tanya Nefertari is that I’d like to take the label to international levels but showcasing at fashion shows around the world is so expensive, it’s not cost effective as yet,” Tanya explains, adding that the glitz and glamour of the world of design only comes after years of hard work. In addition, not being able to use ecommerce platforms such as Ebay and Paypal means that accessing markets outside Zimbabwe is tricky – Tanya wants to get to a point where customers outside the country’s borders don’t have to pay extra for postage fees.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Tanya Nefertari brand. Basing her label in Zimbabwe has proven to be an advantage in certain areas. With a warm climate and no extremes in weather conditions, Zimbabwe is the perfect playground to experiment with colour and aesthetics without worrying about Mother Nature. In addition, the country’s young but energetic creatives culture means that opportunities abound.
“The benefit of being a fashion designer in Zim is that it’s an open playground.”
And there have been many opportunities. The Diamond Tribe Collection and The Cape are two of Tanya’s most favourite creations. Made with local fabric from David Whitehead, they appeal to Tanya’s inner surface designer, striking the perfect balance between attention-grabbing and subtlety. She’s worked with Congolese-American musician Alec Lomami, and was part of the Diesel+Edun campaign.
One of Tanya’s longest and most successful collaboration has been with rapper Tehn Diamond. “Tehn and I have worked together since Tanya Nefertari first began. I’m proud to say that he was one of their earliest supporters of my brand.” Their partnership has recently culminated in a collaboration with Tisu Ngoda Dzacho, a clothing range that Tanya promises will launch officially very soon.
Tanya and the future
Tanya keeps designing, with every creation adding to her growing brand and label. She remains optimistic about the future of Tanya Nefertari, with plans to expand it and continue collaborating with other artists. “My main goal is to make people stand out from the crowd comfortably and to feel good the best way I can.” As she continues her journey in the world of design, I hope I get to see more of her beautiful companions.
To see more of Tanya’s work, check out her website here.
Header image taken by AmaGra Photography.