Because so many of you have asked to know the brand and the people behind it better, we are interviewing the head of Social Content and Marketing at Zigida, Antoinette Mutombo. Read on to understand Zigida’s purpose, their differentiating factor and why they do not run sales!
Zigida Blog: Hi Antoinette, it is so nice to finally get to sit down and talk to you! Our readers have asked about Zigida, what it’s about and if they can trust it. Could you tell us what is the concept behind your brand and why you’re only re-opening now after a brief launch in 2016?
AM: Hello Zigida readers! I am so glad to share the story behind our brand. Simply put, at Zigida, we believe that you do not have to be African or Black to enjoy prints and colorful fabrics. Everyone can wear African-inspired prints, and make it their own. In addition, Zigida strongly believes in quality items, simply because they last longer. That’s been our “why“: to help women and men of all races and backgrounds feel confident that they too can own a quality African-inspired garment and wear it according to their unique style and identity. Our “how” is Zigida, a web application also accessible from your phone, where we deliver our “what” – classic and fashion-forward apparel and accessories using the very best African fabrics available.
ZB: Thank you for spelling out your why, what and how. But there are already a lot of apparel made of African prints out there, what sets Zigida apart?
AM: You are correct. Since 2009, we have noticed a growing trend in online searches for African inspired or tribal prints in America. We have also noticed a surge of African prints in the international fashion scene on multiple runway shows such as Valentino’s Fall 2016. Multiple stores have since opened to deliver fashionable African prints, but tailoring is usually of poor quality, or the apparel are geared towards Black women only with an over-zealous focus on bright colors and unpractical styles for the everyday woman. Our friends are from different ethnicities so we saw a need for great styles – either classic or fashion forward – using African fabrics with a “neutral” approach if I may say, to appeal to fashion-loving women of all regions, especially in America where we live.
ZB: You mentioned quality, could you expand your thought on the quality of apparel made with African fabrics?
AM: I’ll use an example to illustrate my point, if you do not mind. In 2015, a friend of mine saw a skirt online, and it had a cute African print so she bought it. The skirt came but the fit was off. Granted, my girlfriend is tall so she’s tough to fit anyway…
ZB: Be careful, I am about to be offended now…
AM: (Laughter) I’m tall too, so I do not mean any harm. The point is, she is used to ill-fitted clothing even when they are well tailored. However, the craftsmanship was not there; the stitches were loose, the skirt was big and to make matters worse, as soon as she washed it, the colors wore off. I grew up around cotton wax fabrics so I can spot a poor imitation but she did not know. As a result, her impression was that African prints look good but their quality is questionable; which is not true. The fact was that the wax fabric used for her skirt was an imitation Vlisco print of very bad quality. The price was great, but not the quality. In a way, she got what she paid for.
ZB: That’s not good.
AM: Unfortunately, this is a trend we have noticed in the American market today. Many are newly introduced to the so-called African fabrics . They recognize the colorful prints but they cannot distinguish between premium fabrics and bad imitations. However, the fact remains that not all fabrics are made equal.
At Zigida, we only offer the best African inspired fabrics out there. We give you instructions on how to care for your fabrics to preserve the dyed colors as long as possible, and we work with experienced seamstresses to guarantee our craftsmanship.
ZB: Sounds good. You’re saying Zigida focuses on good craftsmanship and premium fabrics. I’ve noticed you keep on using African-inspired prints in lieu of African prints. Why?
AM: Well, the fabrics that are so-called “African” are really Indonesian, from the Indonesian wax dyeing technique known as Batik. Because of their success on the African continent where these fabrics were introduced through French and Dutch traders, the Indonesian Batik fabrics became synonymous to Africa. There’s a lot of debate on the name and origins so I prefer to say African-inspired because the designs and colors are mainly catered to the African market, even though the fabrics themselves originated from Indonesia and are now produced by manufacturing companies primarily in Holland and China.
ZB: Interesting, we’ll need to blog about the origins of the African fabrics soon. Going back to your brand. You opened virtual doors in August 2016 and ran the online store for four months before closing. Why?
AM: To be honest, we were not quite ready for the response, nor the struggle with getting a local manufacturer. It took us a while to settle on a manufacturing facility and by the time our products were ready, we had missed most of the summer which is the best season for our premium cotton fabrics. The response was better than we had anticipated but we had a limited stock. Also, many of our customers who love our fabrics but could not necessarily afford some of our dresses requested that we offer accessories with the same prints to make it easy on their budget. As a result, we took the time to improve our approach and are getting ready to open again at the end of this month.
ZB: Good. So, what should we expect from Zigida this summer?
Antoinette Mutombo: We’ll offer more accessories and a few popup stores to help our customers see our products in person before they buy. Many of our customers are still getting used to our bold prints. One customer said in her email that our dresses were stunning but she could not muster the courage to wear one, at least not yet. However, she loved the print so much that she would consider a scarf or a small bag to slowly incorporate the print into her lifestyle and her identity. We love such feedback from our customers. Our “why” is to make the fabrics relatable to everyone so they can make it their own to express their own individuality. Variety in styles and prices is one way to deliver on that goal.
ZB: Should we expect more variety in prices?
AM: Yes. Our fabrics are some of the best out there, so they are not cheap. Also, producing in the USA adds to the cost of manufacturing. However, we have listened to our customers and have made the changes to give them what they need while staying true to our brand’s vision.
ZB: Should we also expect items to go on sale?
AM: No, sorry. We believe the unique prints of our fabrics are timeless. Back in Congo, we re-use the same fabrics; the style may change, but the prints are usually recycled. And to be honest, I hate paying full price for an item only to see it at half the cost three months later. It was a conscious decision not to put our items on sale. We sell the quantities available until they run out of stock, and offer a variety of styles at different price points, but we do not run sales to be fair to those buying at full price. However, we may run promotions for first-time buyers or on special occasions.
ZB: Great, thank you. One last question. What in the word is Zigida? I mean… what does it mean?
AM: To be honest, it doesn’t really mean anything as far as I know, we simply liked the sound of it; and it was one of the few names our user testing group was able to pronounce correctly. In Congo-Kinshasa, Zigida is a popular market. It is also used to refer to a type of bracelets that people wear. To us, Zigida is a marketplace of high quality products using African inspired fabrics or techniques.
ZB: Thank you so much Antoinette, and I hope to speak with you again soon.
AM: Thank you, Sissi and thank you, readers!