Meet Zamaswazi Nkosi, the designer behind Somizi’s Idols SA outfits

From the streets of Zola in Soweto to Sandton and now on the international stage, fashion designer Zamaswazi Nkosi is transforming and challenging the traditional world of design.

After starting his career as a soccer player – as an international designer, dressing the likes of Miss South Africa 2020 Shudufhadzo Musida and Miss SA 2021 Lalela Mswane, Idols SA Judge and actor Somizi Mhlongo and locals Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Star Connie Chiume and South African actress Zizikhona Sodlaka were never in his plans.

“I entered the fashion industry to explore the world and I never thought that I would be here now that it has completely changed my life,” said Nkosi The citizen.

The designer says the design happened to him by accident. “I’m self-taught, I started designing after a football knee injury that ended my budding career.”

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Nkosi says he’s always been a smart dresser who has always stood out from the crowd, even in the conservative world of football.

The designer played amateur football until he was 21, when a knee injury forced his career path in a different direction. Nkosi says he has a knack for designing and used to replicate garments because he had nothing to wear, which encouraged his fashion sense.

“People found my sense of style strange and asked why I dress like this, but all of their questions piqued their curiosity and led them to ask where to buy the items.

“They had no idea that I used to sew clothes by hand and that I didn’t start using a sewing machine until later when I could afford it,” he said.

A star Is Born

A godsend came in the form of a performance by Brian Lehang, a well-known fashionista who believes in supporting emerging fashion entrepreneurs.

“He spotted me at Newtown Fashion Week, ordered a suit from me and bought me an industrial machine. It was a blessing, no one will buy you anything and offer financial support,” Nkosi recalls.

With a plan to present at Fashion Week, he avoided remarks from cynics and made a solid point to prove them wrong. Waiting to break the chains and enter rooms locked by industry gatekeepers.

Part of that process was opening the doors to South African Fashion Week, where a qualification in fashion he didn’t have was required to present.

“SA Fashion Week wanted qualifications and I pushed until I was allowed to show. I would always try ten times more so that no one can question my presence in the room,” Nkosi said.

designers to the stars

A feat of his career was securing designs for Miss South Africa 2021, now Miss Supernatural Lalela Mswane.

Nkosi says he dressed a contestant named Busisiwe for Miss South Africa in hopes organizers would call him to dress more ladies.

“I kept knocking and this year I was called to an opportunity to dress the Miss SA finalists. The pageant is a big platform and it’s international, it can make you or break you,” he says.

Nkosi is currently the go-to designer for former Miss South Africa, now Miss Supernatural Lalela Mswane.

In addition to the list, he will also dress Miss Seychelles for the Miss Universe pageant and interviews for the final, handpicked after being presented at Seychelles Fashion Week.

Somizi Mhlongo is another great patron under his belt, and he designed outfits for his SA idols apparitions.

“What I do has to evoke a positive response. I designed for them Idols SA Finale and worked with him [Somizi] From day one idols. My social media has grown as a result, potential clients want references that dress you best.

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“I think if I post on social media and people ask what celebs I’ve dressed, that’ll bring business. I was supposed to dress Connie Chiume’s son and I ended up making ‘Mam’ Connie’s dress in three days for the Hollywood premiere of ‘Black Panther.’

Nkosi says there is still work to be done in the fashion space and he is keen and eager to break down barriers to make it happen.

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