Anisa Mpungwe is a Tanzanian born, South African raised fashion marvel. She started her career at age 19 working for various fashion houses, magazines, and apparel factories within Africa, America, and the UK. Not a stranger on international runways, Anisa has showcased her work in fashion weeks in South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Italy, Sweden and New York.
You might have spotted this Motherland Mogul’s garments on stars like Solange Knowles, Anele Mdoda, Lira, Simphiwe Dana, Amel Larrieux, Sharon Smith, and Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon. The former US first lady Michelle Obama donned Anisa’s clothing on her first visit to Johannesburg.
Anisa has won the African Fashion International Emerging Designer Award 2013 and was the MTV Transform Today Award nominee. She has collaborated with brands such as LG, SPREE, Samsung, Maserati, Converse, Nestle, BET and Bobbi Brown. You can find Anisa between Johannesburg, Pretoria and Dar es Salaam studios.
SLA contributor, Kutlwano Mokgojwa, checks in with the humble and spirited Motherland Mogul to get the lowdown on celebrating 5 years in business, creating a lifestyle brand and shipping worldwide.
It has been 5 years since you opened the door to your flagship store, what would you say you owe to still being in business today?
I think consistency is important in any business and across everything that you do. There are certain things that you must always do and always take care of. Another important thing is having a good team. There are days when you will not feel so great and you do not want to deal with customers, you can always pass the responsibility along when you have a good team and in my experience, getting a good team together takes a while.
Your brand is described as having a strong African influence, prints and modern tribal. Do you think this description limits the brand or does it open the right doors?
I think it is all of the above. People always need to relate your brand to something, whether it is an experience in their lives or something they have seen. I am African so that aesthetic cannot disappear, it will always be there. Our aesthetic will always be around the African heritage but I am also really interested in sportswear for example.
I have travelled and moved around a lot and because of that, I am able to come back and tell a story through the garments. The change in the design is not that I am trying to target a specific person but it is just where the LoinCloth and Ashes (LCA) story is.
You have paired up with vibrant talk show host and radio personality Anele Mdoda as your brand ambassador, how does she embody the LCA brand?
Anele is quite a complex woman and that is an LCA girl – somebody who is strong and vulnerable. Somebody who has something to say wants to elevate and fully enjoy her life. Anele is all those things and she is crazy too, she is completely nuts and I love her for that. I identify the LCA girl in her; she really aspires for better in all areas.
You are known to feature on a lot of runways. How do you come up with inspiration for each collection? How do you incorporate your brands aesthetic to ensure your collections are true to the LCA brand whilst still being fresh and relevant?
It has to do with what is happening for us at that time but also keeping in mind who our audience is. For example, if you do something like New York Fashion Week, what they would expect is a whole lot of bead work and when you show something else it creates a kind of shock wave.
When you take African print somewhere like Stockholm where they are known for being minimalist you will blow their mind with so much colour. Same goes for Germany or Berlin. I know we have one of the biggest client bases in Berlin and they love the print because they don’t have that sort of thing there. So when we create collections it is about flying the flag but doing so in a manner that is relevant to the audience and to the brand.When we create collections it is about flying the flag in a manner that is relevant to the audience Click To Tweet
Since your establishment as a women’s wear brand, you have ventured into quite a number of things such as your junior wear, home décor, giving industry talks and consultations. What motivated you to head in that direction and how has that contributed to LCA being such a big brand in the fashion industry?
There was a time when you went into a clothing store and it only offered clothing but now many brands are offering a lifestyle. So if I can’t afford the dress, I can maybe afford to buy a napkin or to buy my little baby a dress.
I wanted LCA to also follow that suit because we don’t only talk about women’s wear when we are in the studio, we talk about everything else. I am not known to hide my experiences so that is where consulting and mentoring comes into play.We are looking to celebrate feminism and rediscovering the word sexy - Anisa Mpungwe Click To Tweet
You have a new collection coming up, can you tell us more about that?
Well, I cannot say much but it is a summer/spring collection. We are looking to celebrate feminism and rediscovering the word sexy. What does it mean for LCA? It means there will be lower necklines and high hems.
You started shipping your clothes worldwide this February, how would you advise a small business owner who wants to extend their distribution in the same way?
Firstly, I think it is important for one to evaluate their international client base. A lot of research is also required. You need to research the best courier for you. For your client base, you also need to evaluate if they are ready for something like that as a business.
You have collaborated with some of the biggest brands – Bobbi Brown, MrP, Samsung – in industry, what is the importance of collaborations in the fashion industry?
For me collaborating with somebody like Samsung, it was a business strategy. I had to think, “If I align myself with this kind of company, how LoinCloth and Ashes be seen?” or which type of distant audience will it reach?
That for me is important, collaborating with brands that are aligned to what you stand for as a brand. I cannot overemphasise the importance of networking, attending events and talking to different people. That is the best way to meet people, possibly future collaboration partners.
Does it get better than having Solange Knowles sport your clothing?
I get this question a lot. People do not always realise the risk of having a celebrity wear your clothing. There is always the risk of a bigger company copying the design and mass-producing it at a cheaper or claiming that design so although it is great and has its benefits, at the end of the day it is all about the LCA customer.Never agree on anything, rather let the supplier know that you will be in contact with them Click To Tweet
You often have to source fabrics and all, what negotiating tips can you give us?
Never go alone. Always go with someone just so you have a second opinion.
Never agree on anything, rather let the supplier know that you will be in contact with them.
Which artist’s album do you secretly own?
I do not have an album that I secretly own, but I have an album that most of my friends consider embarrassing. It is a country album. I think that was a weird phase in life.
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