#LCFBHM: Nelson Choga - FIND YOUR WAY BACK
FIND YOUR WAY BACK is a collection produced by alumnus Nelson Choga, a Zimbabwean-born fashion designer based in London. The collection was made during his studies in BA (Hons) Fashion Pattern Cutting, showcasing a physical manifestation in the 3D form of Nelson’s inner journey of coming home.
The title envisions the sense of belonging and unravelling one’s identity. We interviewed Nelson in light of Black History Month where he talks about his personal discovery as a Black creative and reconnecting with his African identity in the process of working on his graduate showcase when studying at London College of Fashion.
Hi Nelson, thank you so much for taking your time in speaking with us. Can you please talk us through your collection ‘FIND YOUR WAY BACK’ and your inspiration behind it?
The collection highlights the recognition Africans deserve as innovators and trailblazers instead of the portrayal as an impoverished continent with nothing to offer and simply copying everyone else.
I have chosen to illustrate this journey in my contemporary fashion collection by building a bridge between African sculpture and its expression of the female form. In the same way, the cubists constructed a bridge with African sculpture by drawing from it. By doing so, I am reclaiming my identity as an African man while embracing my new identity as an immigrant and a Londoner. In the process of integration.
Why did you decide to experiment with the 3D form for your garment design?
I drew inspiration from 3Dimensional African sculpture which in turn cubists drew inspiration from. Cubism explores breaking down form into a single plane to create an abstract structure that portrays a single image displaying multiple prospective.
As a designer and working with 3D garments, I wanted to be able to create a single pattern using multiple angles, creating layering, and overlapping to create a similar effect.
You mention previously in your graduate showcase that you cut out printed Zimbabwean stone sculptor images when talking about the fabric you decided to use, what is the reasoning behind it? Did this inspire the silhouette of the garments?
Well, I know for sure I wanted to use a combination of hard and soft fabrics. During my primary research, I learnt how difficult stone carving is to shape because of its density and unpredictability. However, in-spite of that artists are patient with the stone they work with, smoothing it to the desired shape. I wanted to be able to show that same contrast in my garments using high quality fabrics for durability and longevity.
I cut out printed Zimbabwean stone sculptor images from all angles and collaged them onto bond paper. I then manipulated the shapes by printing them out on different mediums of paper. I also collaborated with a textile artist to develop the prints to get the desired look I wanted to achieve.
Would you like to incorporate more of your work around your heritage?
My aesthetic is grounded in my multicultural story as a black Zimbabwean who has lived in five countries. Being a black creative means community, so it is acknowledging that the space I have access to was created by people before me, so I consistently work hard and strive to do the same. I would love to incorporate my heritage in my work because it allows me to continue to learn more about my history but most of all share it with the world at large allowing representation.
Did you encounter any challenges during the production of your final showcase if so, how did you overcome them?
Yes definitely. I think it was in the research and pre-collection phase. I kept feeling like something was missing, and my tutors kept suggesting I go back to the drawing board. It was important for me to create a body of work I was proud of, so it was frustrating not being able to get the ideal representation I was aspiring to accomplish. But the more I went back the more I was able to dig deeper beyond the surface in creating my final looks.
What are your hopes and plans for life after graduation?
I have just launched my eponymous label, so that's keeping me busy. My future plans are to continue to enjoy creating and ultimately for my work to find a tribe of its own.