VOGUE VXN | THE NDAU COLLECTION


WHO | THE NDAU COLLECTION

WHERE | Ndau Collection Store 

 
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WHAT
 
 
Ndau Collection, formed in 1998 by current owner Gail van Jaarsveldt and Gill Athestone is a Zimbabwean design house based in Victoria Falls, specialising in the creation of unique African jewellery and exotic leather accessories.   Excited to have finally caught up with Christie Brookstein before they jet off to yet another major show http://www.magiconline.com/wwdmagic in Las Vegas!  and here is what they had to say..(and a few of my favorite items!)
 
  • Who are the creative minds behind the designs?
NC  There are four of us who design for Ndau – owners Gail van Jaarsveldt and her daughter Christie Halsted, Joe Mutoko the head silversmith and myself, Christie Brookstein.
  • What inspires the designs? 
NC  Our designs are firstly inspired by the amazing materials we work with – the rare antique trade beads, the beautiful stones and exotic skins. We constantly reference antique African design in our work and are influenced very much by local culture and art. The beautiful environment we live in also plays a huge role – just today, Christie H has been working on an amazing piece that features river fish she’s hand sculpted and tiny river clams all found in the Zambezi. Our collaboration as four designers also sparks ideas and often something small grows into a huge idea when we work on it together!
  • Have there been any collaborations between the brand and other designers?
NC  To date, there hasn’t, but we are in talks with an amazing designer – as soon as anything’s confirmed we’ll let you know! We do work with the creatively insane Scott Goetz, The Fierce Traveller, making up his signature pieces.
  • What shows or events have you been part of and which would you say where the most memorable?
NC  Until 2012, we had always done trunk shows – this was our first foray into the fashion world and we’ve been blown away by the response. It started with Zimbabwe Fashion Week, then Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa and now we’re off to MAGIC. MBFWA was amazing to see the creative talent of the continent together and we met so many inspiring designers and people in the industry. We loved Zim FW and we’ll always support that as it gives a unique chance for homegrown talent to get themselves noticed.

 
  • What are some of your accomplishments so far? 
NC  One of our favourites was opening the wedding edition of Hello Magazine and seeing Chelsy Davy wearing our red crocodile cuff whilst shopping in London – that really spurred us into the fashion arena. Most recently, we had the great privilege of accessorising gorgeous SA songstress Zahara – she rocked our jewellery! Every time we see a client fall in love with a piece we’ve created, we get a design high too, so everyday holds something special.
  • How do you prepare for a show or an event? 
NC  I would love to say that we’re super organised form the get go, but usually it’s panic stations when we’re invited (as this isn’t planned). If we have planned it’s somewhat calmer. I think this rush of adrenalin adds to the design process and we start working on the theme of the show and designing collections accordingly. The hard work of making these designs reality then begins, often involving many hours of overtime by our amazing team of silversmiths and casters. We research the show or event to identify our target market and start a social and media campaign to create awareness that we’ll be present. We also have to make up gifting and press kits – there’s just the 8 of us, so we do everything ourselves at the moment! Pricing, labelling and packing are the last things to do and then the travelling starts.


  • Where can readers find out more about you and your work and where can they purchase your jewellery?
NC  Our website is being revamped and will be up and running in the next few weeks. Until then, people can see our work on www.facebook.com/TheNdauCollection . If a client sees something they like on Facebook, we are happy to post anywhere in the world.
When the website is up and running, we’ll have an online store with our latest collection pieces. We currently sell from our gallery in Victoria Falls and selected luxury destinations.
We also sell a selection of our goods on our Etsy site under The Ndau 
Collection.

  • How long does it usually take you to construct a piece? Could you please talk me through perhaps a design idea right through to the finished product (the challenges, the frustrations)?
NC  In general, from the first bead casting, through the design and creation process, it takes around 4 weeks to finish a piece.
Our design process is very labour intensive as we believe in keeping heritage skills alive, so we use the centuries old technique of lost wax casting and make everything by hand. We also work with mostly antique glass trade beads so care has to be taken not to damage them. No two pieces are alike, so we’re constantly coming up with new ways to showcase the amazing beads and materials to their best advantage.  We are faced with misconceptions about Africa – believe it or not, some people have even offered to swap used shoes for jewellery! The idea that Africa can produce a designer quality luxury product is still taking hold, although more and more we are seeing appreciation of this.  One of the downsides of living where we do is that we face economic challenges, especially to show internationally. We also have to deal with unavailability of raw materials – although we’ve turned that into a challenge to ourselves and we always create a solution to the problem!

  • What is your favorite part about conceptualising a design?
NC  I think I speak for all of us when I say it’s the rush of creativity that is sparked by a colour, or a bead or even something seemingly unconnected. It all seems to fall into place and a collection comes together from this seed of an idea.
  • I have been following the fashion industry in Zimbabwe and it has been doing impressively well over the last year or two; would you say the same about the accessories and jewellery industry?
NC  To be realistic, I would say no. Unfortunately, the industry faces stiff competition from Chinese imports on the mass market scale, so a lot of people have taken to a more tourist feel in their design, as the local market is not appreciative of local design. It’s also an industry that requires expensive machinery and specialist know how, with very little training available locally, so few people have the necessary skills. It’s also hard to standout as accessories and jewellery are hard to show on the ramp, so it tends to be overlooked. Happily, the situation looks to slowly be changing – we’re finding ways around the issues and we’re seeing more young designers come through as the use of accessories grows in international fashion.
  • Where do you see the brand in the next couple of years?
NC  On the bodies of everyone who’s fashion conscious worldwide! We plan to consolidate on the amazing start we’ve had in the fashion world and are looking at new standalones elsewhere in the world and supplying exclusive boutiques. We have big plans for expansion of the range, but those are on the back boiler whilst we start this journey.


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5 comments:

nokhuthula nyoni said...

Love that 'Birds of a feather' necklace, its amazing!! Great post xx

Fashion Pad said...

Awesome interview. That necklace is so genius!!!

The Ndau Collection said...

Thank you so much for the great interview Rose - really thought provoking questions taht made us think! The Ndau team.

The Ndau Collection said...

Thank you so much for the great interview Rose! Your questions made us think about who we are as a brand... Here's to Vegas! The Ndau Collection team.

Mimi Tran said...

Ups.. sorry, the first comment was not meant to be ;)

You look very pretty, I love your hair as well as your style. Great!

World of Plastic