David Alford Harare is set to make history by becoming the first Zimbabwean based fashion house to showcase at New York Fashion Week. Having debuted only two years ago at the 2015 Harare International Festival of the Arts, David Alford Harare’s meteoric rise has seen them showcase in Ghana, France and Kenya. Now, with only three showcased collections to their name, they are set to showcase at one of the world’s premier fashion weeks.

The significance of this event isn’t lost on the house’s creative director, David Alford, who’s as excited as he is terrified for the biggest moment in his career. Having initially received an invitation to Cape Town’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in October, which he describes as a huge privilege, he capped off a memorable 2016 by receiving an invitation to New York fashion Week on the first week of December as he was preparing for another show in Harare. “I didn’t believe it,” he says. “It’s absolutely huge and I didn’t think that I’d ever get there, let alone get there this quickly. It’s only been about two years. We’re really excited and it’s not an opportunity that a lot of designers get, especially designers from Africa.”

He’ll be showcasing his Autumn/Winter collection, On The Precipice, which is a story on the death of The Great Barrier Reef. This was inspired by a story he read from The Guardian that told of how the Great Barrier Reef is dying due to global warming and other environmental problems – both man-made and natural. The idea of two polar opposites gave him the idea to assemble a collection that resembles the process of something living and dying. 

“I thought it would just sum up that whole circle of life thing quite nicely,” he says. “I think this collection is definitely time that we do something different. I think people always associate me with minimalism and everything being very clean and very well constructed – obviously we’ll keep that – and predominantly black in colour. This time it just felt better to move away from all of that for New York.” This collection is an introduction of new ideas and where the brand may be going in the near future. It also challenges Alford to play around with new ideas, use different techniques and other things he’s never done before.

He talks about his debut show in Zimbabwe two years ago: “It was really testing the waters more than anything, just to see what the response was because what I’m interested in and the type of fashion that I enjoy doing isn’t typically what other African designers do across the continent. So I wasn’t really sure what the feedback would be.” The show ended in success with Alford receiving great feedback, eventually leading to his first show at Zimbabwe Fashion Week being totally sold out. He’s since gone on to win 2015’s Zimbabwe Designer of the Year, Best Designer Couture at the 2016 Style Oracle fashion Awards and Designer of the Year at the Zimbabwe Models Awards 2016.

One of the major challenges they’ve faced along the way is on the production end. “I always like to try and do things that aren’t typically done in day to day ready to wear stuff, so it might be very intricate work with laser cutting or it might be feather work that we’ve done before,” he says. “So I think on that aspect the challenge has really been constructing the garments themselves and just making sure that our collections are fluid and all of my work has a thread running through it. I think it’s important people can see something, look at it and say, 'That’s David Alford.'”

- Adapted from a press release.