Beauty & Fashion

It’s time to embrace your curves

“I was born a designer,” is how Zama confidently describes herself, albeit with a mischievous twinkle in her eye and a smile that lights up her face. As a child, Zama says she fiddled with everything creative, from painting, to music playing dress up with her dolls even going as far as acquiring the skills to earn a second Dan brown belt for karate

If you could package passion then it would come in the form of dynamic, fun-loving pint-sized fashion designer Zama Mathe whose greatest wish is for South African women to embrace their curves and celebrate them.

Growing up in Nongoma in Zululand, her first introduction to the world of fashion design was as a little girl trying to figure out just how clothes got from the glossy pages of magazines and on television to the store window displays. With her interest piqued, she was eager to learn how to make clothes and set out on a quest to bring her creativity to life.

“Being self-taught, it didn’t come easy at first. My parents were very sceptical,” she said, chuckling as she recalls her first attempts at sewing a sleeve. “I remember really battling with the sleeves, then one day I woke up and just knew what to do!”

Zama believes she is blessed by what she calls her “wake up and know” gift.  Leaning back on the chair in her studio she says: “I never tried, I have always been. Things just came, I don’t know how, but they just happened and it felt like I have always been known to them. I don’t really struggle, it comes as naturally as blinking. Of course I feel challenged from time to time, it helps me grow. I learn every day. I respect the gift I have, it’s an honour to have it and I don’t take it for granted at all. If you’re not growing you are dying.”

Leaving Zululand and moving to Durban in 1998 she worked in the industry and founded her designer label, Zarth in 2009. Not long after her designs were being showcased at some of Durban’s biggest fashion events.

Her confidence was boosted in 2014 when Ethekwini Municipality sponsored her trip to Milan to attend the Milan Fashion week. She achieved a certificate in textiles and fashion while she was in Milan and also interned with Angela Atelier, a couturier for Versace, Valentino, Cavalli, Armani Prive and Prada. As a result, The Durban fashion fair 2014 saw Zarth break boundaries. Since then, Zama has been featured in magazines like O, Destiny, Forbes Woman Africa as well as local publications.

Designing bespoke fashion and wedding gowns for the fuller figure is what drives her passion for creating beautiful garments that make women feel beautiful, feminine and dignified.  Her creativity never stops. “Coming to work I feel like a kid in a candy store. I never tire of making beautiful clothes. Every dress has a story and I love how, through my designs I can help a woman reveal parts of herself that may have been hidden before.”

“Curvy women must know what they feel comfortable in. Separate your body parts, decide which parts you like and focus on that. This really helps to accentuate what you feel confident in wearing. Women should always tease their feminine side and feel good about the parts they love about themselves. This is key to looking amazing in a world that has always emphasized that being fashionable requires you to be a size 8!”

“South African women are different from European woman, and the industry is often set according to European terms. We are uniquely African and are crafted differently. My passion for dressing South African women is made easier because we celebrate our curves. We are women with passion, and we need to embrace our femininity without being judged or prejudged.”  In keeping with what her brand is about. Zama is quick to point out that being curvy and comfortable is in no way a front for an unhealthy lifestyle and being overweight. “Our health as women should always come first,” she said.

“With the Vodacom Durban July just weeks away, Zama, who is one of the invited designers at this year’s event, says this year’s theme, It is Time has inspired her. She believes in creating designs that are timeless. What was made in 2013 is still relevant in 2018 and will be relevant in 2022. “Time for me has meant getting creative and exploring new things. My designs are made unique by the fabrics I choose, so for this year’s July I created my own fabric!” she said, the excitement and pride clearly evident in her face.

When she’s not making stunning dresses, Zama loves nothing more than being home at her seaside apartment hanging out with the man in her life. Cooking is her next best thing. She loves preparing food and feeding her loved ones and believes bigger meals are better meals. Food is what brings her family together.

Her energetic lifestyle means she can afford to skip the gym and get home, head for the couch and a game of Tomb Raider on her Play Station!

And when asked if she ever had to abandon everything, what three things would she grab, Zama doesn’t hesitate to answer. She’d grab her phone, her ID and a comfortable pair of shoes… and she absolutely never leaves home without her Gucci  sunglasses!



Durban Get It Magazine Nobember 2018

Kajal Maharaj : Soapie Star
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