Their master artist, Twiga Mbunda, says, "It [jewelry design] is very hard to answer, because most pieces are special and some actually stand out; when I make an item, I don't make something, anyone can make, I don't play safe, I like to make something that works".
This is only an everyday feat; one example, she once planted "an appleseed of faith" in a 70 year old client. Twiga describes the moment as, "I could see the childhood light within herself". Twiga is so in touch with her talent and the joy it brings to its wearer. Her light travels beyond her San Francisco gallery, and into her non-profit program, The Mbinga Children’s Organization.
The organization builds schools in Tanzania and implementing clean water and health care initiatives for orphans due to the tragic AIDS epidemic. Let us take a look into what has inspired her in the past and the future to
Twiga's passion for art could not be contained by her hometown in Tanzania. As a child growing up in a place without shopping malls, she recalls her mother making dresses and other soft textiles for the entire household. After briefly visiting the United States and France during the '80s, she decided to give another lifestyle a try. Her past experience as civil engineer sharpened her designing ability. Twiga never foresaw becoming a designer, but she offers powerful advice to the aspiring artists, "You cannot practice what you are...have to try to invent yourself...ask yourself, what do I do? Starting without a community, you have to look inside yourself, do not feel sorry for yourself, and ask yourself what you can do". Her encouraging advice is simple; you must depend on your inner strength and press towards your niche.
As a design student myself, I found this statement profound and timeless: "Sometimes fashion is not want you know or imagine. Is what you are willing to explore out of your comfort zone or out of ordinary of your routine", spoke Twiga in regards to her approach to the industry. Thus, one has to remain resourceful and creative in achieving your dreams. What sets this collection apart from others is Twiga's use of organic materials. She further explains its purpose, "They [jewelry] are very organic, people are organic as well; natural material brings the best and organic parts of the body...it also takes confidence, we don't need to be 'blinging' in order to stand out".
To understand her creative process, Twiga believes it starts with her mood and colors being related. For example, if the artist is in a mood, she might not be able to design delicately, which shows an environment as influencing a design. Twiga describes environmental influences such as a scarf or dress on a woman. As a result, she may be inspired to improvise the jewelry to bring out the best in the wearer and complements their own style. When designing Twiga starts with, "Myself, to design what I can wear and look at different clientele and what they wear; put together something simple. Your best outfit is in your wardrobe, all you have to do is accent it because it doesn't matter how much you spend but 'must beautify your ‘aura’. Aura is when you look at a woman you see her face, her neck, and even her back, the body is secondary ".
Phototography: Joanna Totolici
Every designer has a favorite, so when asked, Twiga named several, "I like Ungaro because of the textiles he uses. YSL has beautiful designs. Prada, Donna Karan, and small designers because they aren't given enough credit. Also, sometimes big designers take ideas and modify to their brand steaming from indigenous African culture. 99% of modern fashion has African influence, like a wraps or robes i.e. one shoulder, West African bracelets". History repeats itself, but you cannot deny the afro-centric movement we see in fashion. It is going beyond the lace and silk dominated classics towards the functional and expressive African novel style. In the near future, Twiga would like to expand to clothing and open an outlet in New York City or European countries because they have better international clothing. However, Twiga foresees more designing back in Africa, to help create more jobs, “I want to bring my country Tanzania as the head of fashion".
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