By Loren Dondo
ZIMBOWTIES has made a difference by representing eco-friendly fashion in Zimbabwe. Founded by Kim White and his mother, Anne White, the fashion brand aims to connect people through bowties. Zimbowties signifies a connection to the Zimbabwean identity through sustainable and wearable art pieces. Bowties can be viewed as a “conversation starter” when they make one stand out at a dinner-party. Therefore, Zimbowties is expanding the importance of ‘positive fashion’ by pushing the dialogue over environmental issues. The name derives from the idiom “zimbo” which is short for Zimbabwean. The term is characteristic of cultural pride.
Born and raised in Mutare, Zimbabwe, Kim White finds inspiration in Zimbabwean creative talent that can be shared with the world. Seeing Zimbabwean talent on international stages is usually a rare occasion but Kim White has managed to get recognition by being invited to speak at the 37th Edition of Ignite Boulder in the USA, an event that showcases presentations on various topics. Speaking of his experience at Ignite Boulder Kim felt he was “able to share a unique perspective on Zimbabwe that many people might not have thought about.”
Zimbabwe is still finding its way on the global market while the country is facing economic challenges. There are positive changes which are taking place in the country but few are acknowledged. However there is potential for growth if young and innovative entrepreneurs are recognised worldwide more often.
Zimbowties is one of the few businesses in Zimbabwe which are promoting “future thinking” for smart business. The future is green and climate change is inevitably going to push most businesses to be environmentally conscious.
Zimbowties has come up with ways to combat the frustration over water and power cuts in Zimbabwe by finding ways to save water and electricity during production. “The product is not only about making people look good but taking care of the environment,” Kim explains. The fashion brand grabbed the opportunity to make a positive change by using fabric cut offs from tailors in town. This reduces waste and need to produce more fabric which uses a lot of electricity and water.
Although the core values of Zimbowties are eco-friendly, their bowties have added colour to many suits. Kim White shows gratitude for how far the brand has come. The bowtie has become a fashion statement which adds the Zimbabwean touch to a look, making a simple and plain white shirt look like haute couture. “It gives me so much joy to see our bow ties on the necks of amazing people around the world,” he says.
Happy clients from various countries such as South Africa, Estonia or Germany can be seen on the Zimbowties website donning the bowtie with smiles on their faces.
The use of the internet to build a relationship with the customer is important in modern business. Through creating mailing lists and a social media following on Facebook and Instagram, Zimbowties is not only able to sell but to exhibit their good work. This shows what goes on behind the scenes and creates an authentic atmosphere between the buyer and seller.
Furthermore, online shopping has become one of the easiest strategies for retail, especially during the covid-19 pandemic. Online shopping gives retail a platform to still run business through social media advertising and placing online orders via technology.
Speaking of ways in which Zimbowties uses online advertising, Kim elaborates there are only two online exhibitions for a limited time during the year where a selection of their one-of-a-kind pieces are sold. “Our first online exhibition of 2020 is in July and so it will be interesting to see how quickly we sell out compared to previous exhibitions,” he adds.
Zimbowties is taking into considering the financial difficulties being faced by many during lockdown while making sure their tailors continue to get paid. “I’m most concerned about the artisans who hand make our beautiful packaging though. So, it’ll be good if we can get more sales in stores and for our online exhibition in July to go well,” Kim says. Additionally, the brand is contributing towards the relief of corona virus by making their own face masks, with the statement African material cut-offs, sold at an affordable price.
The fairly big network has enabled Zimbowties to ask for help during times of need, such as the donation of facemasks to the under-privileged. “A big part of why we started to make facemasks was because we wanted to make sure we could help out people who can’t afford a mask in our local communities. We created an online donation page on which we’ve received donations from around the world,” Kim says. Charity development is a large part of the brand-image of Zimbowties, as seen in their involvement with Zimbabwean communities. For instance, they set to find creative kids to give scholarships and run a Design Thinking workshop for the kids at the Amatelaz Homework Centre, which falls under the wing of Operation Orphan in Mutare.
Having a big network has helped Zimbowties build a franchise that shows nothing is impossible. What sets the business apart from other Zimbabwean brands is their unique approach to looking after the creatives in their community and the environment.“That is why we have a creativity award to inspire young talent in some of the government schools in Zimbabwe to continue to develop their creative skills. Making environmental protection an integral part of our business and the focus of our creative efforts just seems like the smartest long term survival strategy for us all and we hope to inspire other people and businesses to do the same.”