Travel nurtures style inspiration
By Takudzwa Chitsike
I never realised how much I loved to travel until I ventured to destinations I only dreamed about when I was younger. I didn’t realise how much you could learn from just a simple change in environment. With my handmade accessory manufacturing business Dee-Kaw-Zee (meaning large earrings in my native language Shona), I thrive on creativity and inspiration. In the earlier days of the accessory making craft I mostly relied on television, magazines and strangely enough, music for inspiration. Dreams also played a huge role in ideas coming to life. But travel, oh my, travel then sealed the deal for me.
To give you insight into how my love for design and creativity married with the new found romance with travel, I will tell you a story. In an unlikely turn of events some years ago, myself and two family members flew to Bangkok Thailand on holiday, without visas after having been advised by our travel agent that we could be issued visas at the airport in Bangkok. It turns out we needed to have acquired visas from our departure country and we were to be deported immediately! We prayed for an intervention and one came. The officer responsible for finding us flights to return home had a brain wave. We didn’t need a visa to go to Malaysia where we could then go to the Thai embassy and apply for a visa and return to Thailand a few days later. Albeit unbudgeted for and unplanned, we scored a trip to a country none of us had ever been too!
Upon landing at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, the colour green was everywhere. It was distinct. The dense evergreen rainforest atmosphere stuck with me and has to this day remained my favourite design inspiration. That colour green plays a significant role in my creative work because it symbolises life, renewal and energy. The rich blend of religion from Muslim, to Buddhist to Hindu and a touch of Chinese heritage was evident in the various building structures and attire of the people we encountered. This inspired shapes, texture tones and the type of clothes that would complement the accessories I make.
The elaborate malls such as the those in Suria Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) and the Petronas Twin Towers all resonated with my design thinking, the architecture, the lights, the glasswork all screamed creativity and my pieces benefited from these sights that I saw. My mind and spirit began to awaken from this travel, showing me that nature and surroundings play a huge role in developing creative design.
The ensuing trip to Bangkok Thailand was no different. The rich culture, the modes of transportation, the fashion and diversity all reminded me that exposure is key.
Coming back home to Africa, I realised what a wealth we have in creative inspiration on this continent. My travels to Mulanje in Malawi, where there is a large and serene mountain as well as vast tea estates, brought on a different shade and element of green.
Lake Malawi with its elements of fishery, sand and water, with things like shells that we actually collected and utilised in some of our jewellery pieces also stands out in my head. Go up north to Uganda where again the colour green in a different shade surfaces with the massive plantain fields across the country, a crop grown to make their staple food called matoke.
My home country Zimbabwe, rich in maize fields, tobacco fields, and cotton estates also brings colour and shape design to reality. The Eastern Highlands with its mountains and valleys, Victoria Falls with the smoke that thunders have all greatly inspired my creations.
In my various travels worldwide I have also collected items that have featured in some of our pieces. Stones, shells, beads, horns, animal hide, metal pieces, fabric and so many other elements that we have repurposed. My travels have made me realise the significance of nature to our existence, easily perceivable importance and inferred importance for some of us creatives.
It is important for my brand identity to preserve as much of the natural environment around us as is possible. At Dee-Kaw-Zee, we prioritise sustainable fashion. The use of upcycled, repurposed and reused materials is vital to us. When we utilise items from nature, we ensure that we are not affecting the natural habitat nor are we causing any harm to plant and animal life. The beauty I have encountered worldwide has had an immense impact and benefit to me and I wouldn’t want to selfishly cause deprivation for future generations of God’s majesty that I have had the privilege of experiencing.
I have learnt that getting out of one’s comfort zone, seeing a different place, whether in your own country or abroad, opening the eyes to nature and surroundings as well as allowing ourselves to feed positively off of the grand world we have before us can not only soothe the soul, but depending on our mind set and view on life, we can create and thrive!