Cancer inspires fashion designer

AFTER being diagnosed with breast cancer last year, fashion designer Rutendo Karikoga felt depressed until she turned to art for solace.

With oil and canvas at her disposal, she started painting, creating artwork that expressed how she was feeling inside.

Having gone through various medical interventions, Karikoga is now out of the woods but the whole ordeal remains the inspiration behind her collection of designer bags under the “Famba Neni” label. The collection dubbed “The Art of Chemotherapy” was launched recently in the capital and features incredible bags in which the designer fused the leather and canvas paintings that she made as she bravely battled cancer.

A short fashion film which helps explain the story behind the bags accompanies the collection.

Karikoga shared the story behind her new collection and career in general in an interview with The Sunday Mail Society.

“Just to walk you through the brand itself, ‘Famba Neni’ means walk with me and it’s a label that is meant to tell give a Zimbabwean narrative through fashion,” said Kaseke.

“I came up with the name after realising that I was a collection of things I have seen, people I have met, places I have been to and so had the desire to share this journey with others.”

“Famba Neni” was launched last year with the first collection of bags selling out in a short space of time but unfortunately this was the time that the designer found out she had breast cancer.

“I was still in production for my first collection and that is when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The only thing that kept me strong during that time was painting because that is how I could express myself. Every time I felt down or ran out of steam, I would just go to Village Unhu Art Gallery and spend some time there painting.”

She went to the United States for treatment and upon her return in June this year, she decided to create a collection that was inspired by her journey as a cancer patient.

“It was not the physical chemotherapy that gave me strength but rather the art that I created during that time, which was inspired by the movement of blood. I took these paintings and cut the canvas which I fused with other materials to come up with these unique designs,” she narrated.

The collection consists of laptop bags, sling bags, backpacks, purses, clutch bags and handbags, among other things.

Karikoga added that the story is not hers alone but also for many other cancer patients and victims.

“To add depth, I interviewed different people who had either lost someone to cancer or those who have battled the disease and incorporated their stories, which is why each bag is named after a certain individual.”

The budding but talented designer realised her passion after successfully creating a leather backpack and duffle bag for her brother. The favourable feedback she received from people afterwards resulted in her abandoning her legal profession in pursuit of fashion designing.

The first collection she made was the Mupedzanhamo-inspired “Mabhero” line where she incorporated second-hand clothes and accessories into her designs.

Bags she made in collaboration with Haus of Stone sold out in a few days at all the outlets that they were showcased.

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