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Search for African print fabric

HARARE – As Part of my fashion design journey, I travelled to the Comesa Market in Lusaka a couple of years ago in search of African print fabric.

I made the journey because I had heard that the Comesa market was the best place to shop in Zambia as it stocked the trendiest prints from The Democratic Republic of Congo, the home of African print fabric this side of the continent.

This trip has to be the most spontaneous ever as I had just $140 in hand and with two days to spare.

After going down to roadport in search of coaches that go to Zambia I have had to settle for a chicken bus as my mode of transport.

After mentally preparing for this trip I find myself on the bus at 7.30pm with all my essentials, a good book, an Ipod, dried food, water and my backpack.

We arrived at the border just before midnight and we had wait until the next morning for us for us to complete our customs obligations.

After this exercise we reached Lusaka about five hours later.

The bus stopped near the Comesa market and all the passengers made a mad dash for the exit towards the bureau de change.

I followed suit as we only had two hours to change money shop and get back to the bus.

As I was running through the market my adrenalin started pumping as I looked around and saw the beautiful fabric that surrounded me.

I found myself in a sea of fabric and now had the task of choosing my top ten pieces.

I had sixty thousand kwacha to spend so I got busy selecting fabric and haggling with the sales people.

Just under two hours later, I was back at the bus.

People were frantically packing and swapping fabric for other items to make their customs clearance much easier.

Aboard the bus, vendors made last minute sales, watches, bags, jeans, juice, you name it they had everything.

Everyone finally settled down as I sank into my seat and my plugged in my Ipod, closed my eyes and got ready for the journey back to Harare.

The customs clearance process was quite an orderly process as buses lined-up and we were all ordered to take everything out of our bags and have them searched.

I realised just then why people were swapping things at the bus station we were only allowed to bring in four of the same items.

The bus waited for us as we paid duty and set off to Harare.

By the time we got back I was exhausted and grateful that I had made the journey in one piece.

To be honest I haven’t made that journey since that time as it was a culture shock as much as it was exciting.

I got a small insight into what cross border traders go through. I spoke to many people on the bus, and whilst waiting at the border.

For many this trip is how they make a living and some go through this journey as frequently as once a week.

Many traders said they supplied various shops in town and with our current love of Dashiki and various other prints, there definitely is a demand.

It has been almost two years since I made that trip to Zambia and African print is still in high demand.

*Rudo Nondo is the creative designer at ANAIA and founder of The Fashion Market, a market that promotes local designers. She is the country coordinator for Fashion Revolution Zimbabwe, a movement promoting ethical and sustainable fashion. Coming from a law and business background, Rudo has always been passionate about fashion and conscious consumerism and believes in fairness in the fashion supply chain.

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