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Meet Danayi Chapfika-Madondo: The designer behind Haus of Stone

Growing up as a free spirited young soul, one of Zimbabwe’s most eminent fashion designers, Danayi Chapfika-Madondo had a desire for everything that she found fascinating. From having a vast interest in flying a plane to a wishful thinking of enforcing the law as a police officer, being a comedian also tickled her fancies. The protein design practitioner who sought to create visual narratives that are not only beautifully composed but emotive in nature, is the creative designer of Haus of Stone, a name derived from a Shona phrase ‘Dzimba Dzemabwe’ meaning Zimbabwe.

Image: Supplied

Demonstrating history within the media entertainment industry as a project coordinator, art director, creative image and brand consultant, Danayi has worked with UNDP Zimbabwe, Patrick Mavros and Wild Aid Africa. Her collaborative fashion film documentary titled 'The Therapy of Fashion' was selected for the BOKEH Fashion Film Festival 2020 and she was further nominated as one of 10 Impact Honourees by the Circular Fashion Summit 2020. Besides her sister, mother and grandmother, Danayi sights self-taught Zimbabwean fashion designers Ska Sebata, Trish Carmen and Maita Marimo, as women who immensely inspired her journey.

When did you start your HAUS OF STONE legacy?

Haus Of Stone started in my mind in 2013, but only manifested into reality in 2014. The Haus Of Stone you experience today began in 2018 when I released my collection titled 'Ode to Askana'. I had taken a hiatus prior to the release of this collection to step away from fashion & express myself through different avenues.

The brand provides me with an avenue to explore and play with a multitude of concepts through my visual storytelling and design approach. I have always had an interest in reimagining everyday African scenarios, making them high fashion, utilizing everyday artisan-made home objects and bestowing luxury status on them, from an African persons' perspective.

Your incorporation of common household objects in your collections is fascinating, care to share on that approach?

Glamourizing something outside of its usual context, definitely plays a huge part in my work. It’s always subtle in execution and my extension of expression. Everything I do with Haus of Stone is extremely intentional and multi-layered, even in its simplicity. I call myself an intuitive designer because there are decisions I make that are purely guided by my intuition, feelings, or dreams. I always allow room for the spirit to move!

Image: Supplied
Image: Supplied

Why is the HAUS OF STONE story important?

The most important thing about the brand are the stories that accompany the clothes. I get to archive personal and shared moods of time within my space, as a point of reference for future generations. I have experienced so much of my identity and culture being stripped or diluted, so I think it's important for this generation of creatives to really see their work as more than beautiful pieces of art. Art that plays a part in documenting, archiving and transformative thinking.

You are one of the pioneers of sustainable fashion in Zimbabwe, tell us more about this side of you?

I fell into sustainability, purely by the environment in which I work (Zimbabwe). As an independent designer, it only made sense to have a brand that was governed by ethical practices. Financially, it served me and the entire system which I belong to. I am constantly learning and implementing ethical and sustainable practices towards my work without necessarily labelling myself a ‘sustainable fashion designer’.

What are your thoughts on the state of Zimbabwean and African fashion at large?

Zimbabwean fashion is still a fetus, yet we are far too concerned with clout and the 'perception' of success, rather than actual success. To grow, we need to collaborate more as an industry and emulate fellow African countries like South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana, which are trailblazing and setting the pace. It is time for the continent as a whole to expand dynamic African fashion narratives and designs being told and spread across the globe.

How important is formal education in the business of fashion?

Formal fashion education gave me a strong technical foundation when it came to designing. I have a 'slight' advantage when it comes to conversing with fashion 'intellects'. However, I learnt a lot of what I do in my business through trial and error, plus the continual pursuit of self-education. My eye for marketing and visuals came from my past experience as an art director for an advertising company. I now apply that knowledge and experience to my work at HAUS OF STONE. If I could go back in time, I would make sure I spend my university days experimenting with diversity of aesthetics, networking, collaborating, interning and worrying less about whether my lecturers rated my work highly or not.

You usually take breaks from fashion, why is this important to your creative mind and new approaches?

I like to give my audience time to digest the work that I create. The idea of constantly bombarding them with new work defeats that agenda. I believe in the art of repetition, and only until I have repeated it to a point that I deem sufficient I can then progress to the next chapter. Sometimes my work needs to be delivered in phases and articulated through different mediums in order for the message to be received. I strive to create work that is timeless, so I don't have to continually be developing new works of art. I don't want to function from a place where I am stretching myself thin to keep the masses entertained or to remain relevant. I am very comfortable with having a cult following of one, even if that one person is me. That's why when I break from designing I usually explore completely different avenues of expression from my chosen profession as a means of detox or escape.

From all your collections, which one is your most ground-breaking favourite and how so?

Ode to Askana is my favourite simply because it ushered in a new season for me as a fashion creative. The overall message of healing and paying homage to the women that came before us really resonated with my own struggles. It was pouring out of everything negative and limiting that was no longer serving me. As I created and released that narrative into the world, I felt healed from the things that held me back. I believe some women resonated and connected with it too.

Who are your 5 fashion influences and why?

Everything about Mono Giraud is almost what I want to do with HAUS OF STONE, only at a very Zimbabwean approach. Their level of expression & execution is one that I hope to reach one day. I love Tracee Ellis Ross, her energy exudes more than the fashion. She is jovial, comical, welcoming and free-spirited. She is proof that you don't always have to be stone face to be taken seriously or be great.

Kanye West, who is a conceptual genius in my opinion, is passionate about art and has a high level of respect for the different elements that exist within the arts sphere. Apart from her outstanding execution and attention to detail, I would love to be affiliated with Solange Knowles, she creates from an authentic and truly inspired space. Lastly, I love Tobe Nwigwe and how fashion plays a huge role in his visuals. What's not to love about a man that is about his grind, art and family.

If you were not a fashion designer, stylist and image consultant, what would you be?

Since storytelling is at the centre of all my work and is the primary motivator, I would likely be a film director, bringing ideas to life through motion.

What are some lessons you have learnt?

No matter how gifted or creative you are, a person with zero talent and great business acumen will always do better than you. Never neglect the 'business' of the art, it deserves a fair amount of attention. If you are going to deal with self-serving individuals, try by all means to make sure that there is something in it for you too in the end.

What keeps you going as a business superwoman?

I choose to rise each time I fall flat on my face. I have learnt the importance of establishing 'my' priorities as Danayi, and it helps me to avoid overwhelming myself with meaningless commitments.

What advice would you give to a younger Danayi?

Please trust your own taste, your perspective is just as valid and valuable as anyone else. Don't be afraid to stand alone and not follow the crowd, especially in what matters to you. Don't chase validation, but purpose. Seek to be a value contributor. Be comfortable and confident with leading from behind (servant leadership mentality).

By Gilmore Tee

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