African entrepreneur Vimbai Masiyiwa is taking African fashion to the world one outfit at a time.
Masiyiwa is a 28-year-old businesswoman and the executive director of Batoka Hospitality limited, a purpose-driven hospitality company and the first black female-owned safari lodge group in Africa.
In 2022, the entrepreneur was voted, alongside Princess of Wales Kate Middleton, as one of the 2022’s best-dressed women by UK’s Tatler magazine. The magazine described her style as “All-out glamour”.
She is an avid supporter of African couture and is a fierce promoter of fashion inspired by and produced in Africa.
We spoke to Masiyiwa to find out more about her love for African fashion.
What do you love most about African fashion?
I love how some African designers have started incorporating their own traditional garments into modern-day clothing, as well as local artwork, textiles and sometimes, history. I love the fact that with most pieces there is knowledge attached to it and not just it being an outfit. I think for designers on the continent, this is necessary. As Africans, we haven’t really written much about our own history and cultures. We have a lot of catching up to do in that area, so doing so across multiple industries, for me, is important.
How do you promote African fashion to the world?
I have the opportunity to attend many global events and speaking engagements. All of these usually have people of influence in attendance, so I always try to wear an African designer when I attend. Of course, this is not always possible. However, when I get an invite to something, my first instinct is to always identify which African designer I want to work with, timelines permitting!
Who are your favourite African designers?
These are African designers whose designs I love and enjoy wearing; Thebe Magugu (South Africa), Christie Brown (Ghana), Pepper Row (Nigeria), Lisa Folawiyo (Nigeria) and Moshions (Rwanda).
How did you feel about it being rated as one of the 2022’s best dressed Women by UK’s Tatler magazine?
I was obviously shocked and equally excited. I have never considered my style to be anything out of this world. I’ve always known I dress well and appreciate beautiful clothing, and I guess this was validation. It actually was meaningful to me in terms of body image and self-love. Being selected to be on the list and not having the conventional style icon body style for me shows a shift in culture and perception that I also hoped for as a child.
How would you describe your personal style?
Well, at the moment, I am in a bit of a transitionary period with my style. My style really comes down to how I am feeling. I love something that is classic and elegant. In winter, it's usually about outerwear for me. In summer, I always feel a little more bright, so I love to wear statement pieces and bold colours. I am generally casual on a normal day - jeans, a t-shirt (that usually has a statement written on it), then I will add trendy sneakers or loafers, then, of course, for me it’s the jacket or coat that brings it all together. If not that, then lounge wear - I love lounge wear, and I wear it out.
Who are your style icons?
Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Zendaya, and I find Lewis Hamilton’s track style quite inspiring - I love to watch F1, but I probably look forward to his looks a little more than the race.
Besides being an international style icon, Masiyiwa is a force to be reckoned with in the business world.
In her role as co-founder and CEO of Batoka Hospitality limited, she has led the strategic repositioning of the company for investments in Zimbabwe and the expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa. Masiyiwa aims to use tourism and hospitality to build sustainable livelihoods by improving the lives of the local people.
She is working towards the development of the African tourism industry as a whole, changing the narrative around Africa. In addition to preserving and strengthening communities, she is also committed to preventing the extinction of wildlife and preserving their environment.
Having spent most of her childhood in South Africa, Masiyiwa strives to empower the African dream of success through eco-tourism and hospitality, particularly through the Tesse Fund. By contributing 10% of revenue from guest stays to the fund, Batoka Hospitality employees can recommend projects that benefit their local communities.
Learning is at the heart of Batoka Hospitality’s eco-tourism work in Zimbabwe, which includes building schools and libraries, as well as providing training and skills development to Batoka staff and the surrounding community.
Masiyiwa is also a mental health activist. She currently serves as an adviser for several Africa-based organisations that aim to de-stigmatise mental health among young people, particularly in rural areas.
She graduated with a BSc in Computer Information Systems from Bryant University and a MSC in Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship sciences from University College London. She is currently based between London and Johannesburg.