Chantal Fraser: When I switched careers, I began looking at design as more than just a hobby

Chantal Fraser is a fashion designer and house singer based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.  She started her fashion label Chante Clothing in 2010 as a side hustle and transitioned it to full time in 2014.

Her clients comprise of everyone from local celebrities, to brides and bridesmaids and any young lady wanting to look chic and well put together.

Chantal also works with locally based international brands like Edgars which is part of the Woolworths Group of companies.

Following the family tradition, Chantal finally decided to venture into music in 2017 and released her single Better than Yesterday. 


When did you fall in love with fashion?

I’ve always had a passion for it since I was young – like seriously young. My passion started with creating beadwork and eventually sketching fashion ideas. 

What gave you the courage to pursue Chante Clothing full time?

Passion full stop! My passion was burning so much that I just could not ignore it. I was miserable, working and doing other things. Even though I was getting paid well, I just didn’t have the passion. 

I said to myself, if others can dive into their passions and do it, why can’t I?

What setbacks did you have during that transition period?

Definitely, finances.  I was jumping into an unknown business. Yes, I had passion but obviously, I was still trying to weave my way through it.

In addition, I had to patiently grow my clientele which took a lot longer than I anticipated. When people are committed to their designer you know that’s it. It is hard to convince them to try someone new.

Before setting up Chante Clothing, what were you doing and how did it help you later on?

I was doing accounts. I hated it! But for some reason, I’d find myself doing accounts in jobs. But when I did switch careers, I began looking at design as more than just a hobby – but a legitimate way of making an income. This made establishing the business easier.

Do you feel like there are enough structures that help women build a business?

Yes and no. There is still a mindset that it depends on what the trade is. Some people don’t look at design as a business; they still see it as a plaything. But if there are women seeking financial assistance for something like chickens they are able to source funds much easier than us. I believe that there is a bias against fashion to some extent. 

Have you had any mentors help you in your entrepreneurial journey?

Yes, I have. I’m privileged to know loads of people in the same business as me. My fiancé has been in the fashion industry much longer than I have. Since we collaborated on C and C Clothing, I have been able to learn a lot from him and his support.

I also have friends who helped me learn to sew. While I did have the passion, I needed to acquire the skill. This led me to camp at a friend’s house and eventually learn how to sew. I really appreciate her for doing that for me.

What has opening a business taught you about yourself?

It’s taught me that I can have discipline when it comes to money lol. Initially, I didn’t think I would be this disciplined, but opening a business had really exposed me to some of my strengths.

Fashion fades but style never fades - @chanteclothing Click To Tweet

What do you want Chante Clothing to represent as a brand?

I want it to represent elegance and style. 

It’s about bringing out the inner you. It’s about genuinely feeling confident and beautiful and not conforming to what people say is the latest trend. That’s what my business is all about!

Who are your style or fashion icons?

I really like David Tlale and his tenacity. Dolce and Gabbana are also inspiring as they are a team like my fiancé and I. We look up to them. If they can do it, so can we!

You currently have a single out, Better Than Yesterday. How did you get into singing and why a motivational track specifically?

My parents are actually musicians, they had a band ages ago. I didn’t choose music, music chose me! It was in the blood!

I’ve always had the passion and have been singing from forever. When I released my track, I chose motivational music because there’s a world out there that is extremely confused. A lot of people do not know who they are really.

If media says this is the style everyone moves to that. No one has a backbone to stand on. So, with my motivational music, I hope to inspire people to be who they are no matter what situations they are going through.  

The themes vary but basically, it’s about you being you being proud of who you are! 

So where did you get your obviously innate sense of confidence?

I think I got it from my parents (Not I think, I know!) and especially my mum. She was a very bold person and I learnt a lot from her.

I was fortunate to have parents that allowed us to be who we wanted to be. No matter what you wanted to do they supported you all the way.

What advice can you give about being true to yourself and following your dreams?

Every child is born with a dream, and as time goes on, people that surround you can slowly discourage you.

Don’t forget what that first love was. Go back to it and don’t allow anyone to stand in your way. Even if it seems hard just keep going, keep at it because at the end of the day, that’s what you were born to do.

There’s nothing as depressing as doing something because it’s a trend or because family is pressuring you.  Misery is the most disheartening thing ever. Indulge your passion and you’ll get there eventually.

How do balance two careers (and a personal life!)?

It can get difficult at times. What I’ve learnt to do especially with two careers is put timelines and plan to do specific things within certain time frames. Planning is essential.

I go as far as saying when I get home, there will be no work talk but it can definitely get hectic.

What does success look like to you at the end? How will you know you have achieved your dreams?

Success is when I can look back at my life and say well-done Chanty and I’m happy and I have tried everything. If you haven’t tried it all how would you look back and truly be satisfied?

That’s where I find success even in failure. Failures can be a success because you made the effort. You don’t want to have a what if in your mind. What ifs are horrible!  

Success should be about inner satisfaction and being happy. It’s not something that can be equated to a particular amount of money or how many likes you get on Facebook or how many people follow you on Instagram. It’s about self-contentment and being able to say at the end of it I tried it all.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Ola Morin-Muhammed: I make it my duty to understand my client’s needs

Ola Morin-Muhammed: The ultimate goal is to tell a story and expression of love through design Click To Tweet

Luxury is a lifestyle and Nigerians know how to appreciate luxury. Ola Morin-Muhammed brings luxury to her unique event invitations. Think about it, at any event, the invitation goes out first. They are really the most important mode of communication for a grand day.

People are slowly understanding the importance of the first mode of communication for their grand day. The invitation goes out first, and Ola’s invitations are some of the most gorgeous you’ll ever see. Ola Morin-Muhammed started IJORERE in 2008 and has designed invites for A-list celebrities of the sports and entertainment industry.

Her background in architecture greatly influences her designs and has given her an unconventional approach. From next year, IJORERE will be designing weddings and events too.


What do you think of the invitation design industry in Nigeria? Why the need for luxury in this industry?

The invitation design industry in Nigeria is on the rise. People are slowly understanding the importance of the first mode of communication for their grand day. The invitation goes out first, it sets the tone for what to expect. It builds anticipation.

The need for stationery in Nigeria, particularly the Nigerian wedding industry has been secondary for some time. And when you have a guest list of at least 1000 to accommodate, a 2-day wedding affair, and the need to make sure there’s surplus of everything, it’s no wonder why the first impression (invitation), doesn’t come first.

I do however, see a shift, and Nigerians residing in Nigeria are beginning to understand the necessity of an invitation. Nigerians are known to be overachievers, and when we achieve abundance of wealth, we like to show it off proudly. I think that’s why Nigerians do appreciate luxury.

Not because we are conceited or arrogant, but because we like to show off the hard works of our labour. Weddings in Nigeria are flamboyant and all about showing the world; that we have educated overachieving children, and will proudly spend flamboyantly, invite everyone we know and don’t know. This is just so our children know how important they are to us and their wedding is talk of the town. It’s a grand milestone the Nigerian society celebrates.

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What’s the process that goes on behind your designs?

I make it my duty to understand my client’s needs, their personality, and take that knowledge to the drawing board.

Sometimes, my client(s) knows exactly what design direction they’d like me to take. Other times, my team and I have to interpret what the client(s) desires are. The ultimate goal is to tell their story and expression of love through design.

Ola Morin-Muhammed: Nigerians are known to be overachievers, we like to show wealth off proudly Click To Tweet

How does your experience as an architect influence your work with Ijorere?

Architecture greatly influence’s my design approach. I’m always designing not just for aesthetics, but functionality and sustainability. I want my designs to be keepsakes and to be used for other purposes outside of just being an invitation.

Being able to apply principles of architecture to my design process also influences the way my clients experience their invitation. Now, they realize because of the principle of function, their special day can now and forever be a part of the lives of their loved ones. Some of the invitations became picture frames, boxes to keep special memories or treasures.

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How do you choose materials/fabrics for your designs?

I always choose materials based on the client’s style and most importantly their budget. I also consider their story in the selection process.

Identifying what fabrics will share their story and expression of love is a partnership with my clients. At the end, we want their guests to feel like they are really about to experience a uniquely grand day.

Has it been difficult (or easy) to find clients to patronise IJORERE?

IJORERE has been around since 2008, Over the years, I’ve garnered accolades in the media, including from the likes of Entrepreneur Magazine, INSIDE Weddings, BellaNaija, Munaluchi Bridal, and more.

I’ve also been blessed to have designed for A-list celebrities of the sports and entertainment industry. A few I am able to mention are Louis Carr of BET, David Tutera of My Fair Weddings, and the weddings of NFL players; Nicholas Perry, and Michael Daniels.

At this point IJORERE is branded, so it’s no longer difficult to receive cool and interesting projects. We let our work do the marketing.

Ola Morin-Muhammed: I want my designs to be keepsakes and to be used for other purposes Click To Tweet

Do you usually attend the events you create invitations for?

No, not usually, most of my clientèle are out of state or out of the country. Unless, my clients happen to be close friends or family, I don’t typically attend, although a few of my clients have invited me to their wedding or event.

I enjoy being a part of it all with the designs we create. We get to be part of the big day and days beyond that with our keepsakes.

What’s the last thing on your mind before you go to bed at night?

Just 3 things;

  • Prayer,
  • IJORERE,
  • Sleep.

luxury-medieval-wedding-inspiration-6Where do you see IJORERE in 2017? Do you have any big plans in store?

IJORERE is always evolving and staying abreast of trends. My focus will strictly be on invitation and event design in 2017. Weddings and event design is something new and came by demands, based on continuous requests from my clients.

Now, I’m designing not only invitations, but also weddings and events. It’s fun and I find that I’m doing a 360 degree right back to my first love, architecture.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

How to organize an independent art/design exhibition

To artists and designers, exhibitions are very important. In fact, they are akin to gigs and appearances musicians make. Exhibitions are a good way to talk to people about your art, meet prospective buyers and patrons and generally reach more people. Now, most people think you need to have a gallery or art-house to have an exhibition. However, more and more independent art exhibitions are put together across the world.

Three months ago, I had an exhibition titled, “The Philosopher’s Muse: An alternate art exhibition” in Lagos, Nigeria. I’d like to share firsthand how you can pull off a great event.

the philosophers muse

Now, the first step is to have all your art works completed first. This way, you don’t run into any future troubles. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to start.

Build a committee

The committee can be made up of people you have employed or friends and family. No matter what, always start with a committee. Tell as many people about your idea as possible to get their take and then have some of them help make your idea a reality.

Create a budget

With the help of your committee, you would need to decide on a budget for the event. Stick to it closely and don’t forget to factor in marketing costs.

Get a space

If you can get a gallery space, that would be amazing. If you can’t, there are tons of other types of spaces that can be used. Think of bars, garages and so on. If you’re in Lagos, you can reach out to Sao Café, Blue Mahogany, StrangerLagos, Ice cream factory, iamisigo store and Kia Motors. These are a few places in Lekki that seem to be game for such events. If you don’t want to go with them, you can get a garage, a white space, a store or a room to host your first exhibition.

Invite other artists

Always do this. Two heads are better than one and it’s a great idea to invite other artists to exhibit with you. This will require drawing up an arrangement with them.

Publicise your event

There are a number of blogs which would be happy to publicise your event for a small amount of money or for free depending on your agreement. Some of these blogs may not be powerhouses in the blogging world but they reach the right crowd. A number of examples are NTDIL, FOMO, The Sole Adventurer, UnravellingNigeria, Vunderkind, The Naked Convos , ArtsandAfrica.com, Afropunk.com.

Also, getting your event on a free events platform may help the turnout of the event.

Upload the details of the exhibition

Having all the details of the exhibition on your Facebook page or website will cut the cost of publishing exhibition material. It will also get other people who may be unable to make it to the exhibition aware of the event.

Entertainment

Rent or loan a small set of speakers for music. Then organise caterers to provide small finger foods and drinks so your guests know you appreciate them for coming. Yellow Canopy is an affordable option for event catering.

Send invites

After publicizing the event, don’t forget to send out personal invites to people you want to see at the event. These could be influencers, mentors or others.

Set up early

Before the event, try to set up a day before. Have the name and titles of the works you’ll be exhibiting neatly placed near the pieces.

Have a good time

At this stage, you have done all you can. It’s time to have some fun. Enjoy it knowing that no matter what, you have taken the first step in your career. This is good news.