My grandmother always said: “If you’re ever to have baggage, make sure the bag is functional and stylish.” She might have meant something else, but I took it for the literal meaning of the importance of having style, yes, even with bags. You don’t have to buy a designer bag that costs the price of a car, and I’m certain with Okuzodza, this is very much possible.
The recent dramatic rise of the custom made bag as a measure of style in Zimbabwe is no less than amazing and it’s a trend that we, as a nation, have been quick to reflect.
These days, a small custom-made bag is more than just something in which to carry toiletries and a phone — it makes an important statement about who we are.
Run by Paidamoyo Ndudzo, Okuzodza, “is a business — a design house in the making”, that makes trendy, good looking and fashionable bags among other things.
The name Okuzodza, is one laden with meaning, and it’s a whole gift on its own to be bestowed by one who holds its product.
“Okuzodza is a Shona word that means ‘He anoints you’. I believe the skill to make bags has been an anointing from God. I never formally trained to sew, but God gave me the ability. As a brand — I pray over all the bags that God anoints the user in a special way that the bag brings joy and confidence to the user in their walk to finding their own special anointing.”
“If it’s a work handbag for an executive may that bag give the user confidence as they go into a meeting, if it’s a diaper bag may the parent smile when he/she sees the bag and remembers the child and the love they have for the child, the money purse may the person look to God and already see it filled with money . . . I could go on.”
The Okuzodza journey which began in July 2018, is a journey that can, at first glance, be mistaken for a business that started off coincidentally by fate. With Paidamoyo being a firm believer, she describes it as God’s fate, yet still, it’s humble and shocking beginnings are a reflection of pure talent.
They are located in Glen Lorne and market on free social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. They have a store front on the Classifieds website and a free website from Wix.
“The journey started last year in July after a friend invited me for a BNI meeting. It was a last minute invite and one of the requirements was that I had to bring business cards to hand out during and after the meeting. I didn’t have any formal business cards, I am a practising dentist so I decided to make my own using a few materials I had at home.”
“I struggled to make them look professional so I made the artist in me flow and crossed my fingers people would take me serious, despite my ‘rustic chic’ cards. Alas, the cards were a hit at the meeting .The attendants thought I had come to advertise a hand-made card.”
The dentist-cum-bag maker goes on to explain, “One of the members approached me and introduced me to a lady who was looking for someone to help her design and make authentic, unique Zimbabwean jewellery.
“I went for the meeting with a bag I had made for myself (I am a self-taught seamstress) having no idea how I was to help but excited at the prospect to finally do something I have always secretly wanted to pursue. We never then discussed the jewellery line, she fell in love with the bag and asked me to make 5 for her to take to the US as gifts for her friends and that is how Okuzodza started . . .”
Just like with shoes, choosing the type of bag, material and design comes down to a mix of one’s practical needs and stylistic instincts. You want to find something you’ll enjoy wearing, but something that will also hold everything you need to carry that day. Okuzodza is striving to be at the forefront of custom bag making.
“At Okuzodza we make bespoke functional and stylish (trendy, good looking) bags. That is, we make a one-of-a kind bag for our client, a bag unique to them. All you have to do is give us a call, let us know what you want, then we design it and make it for you according to your specifications.”
“Our bags are amazing in that we take great care to pick the best materials and the strongest hardware and ensure that our finishes are exceptional and pay attention to the smallest details.”
And because nothing is more creative, and brilliant than a mind with purpose, sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with nothing in the process. Purpose, in life, is to find determination and give your whole heart and soul to it.
Paidamoyo, on how Okuzodza is still fulfilling its drive, highlights: “My purpose is to serve my creator and because I know him I shall be strong and do great exploits. To me exploits can be as simple as inspiring young girls to impact other people and building a lasting empire for generations to come.
“My business has totally enabled me to do this through the various customers I meet, through the conversations we have and chats as we design the bags. My story has encouraged young women to walk in their gifting and turn them into a business. Education is amazing but can be limiting. My friend calls me the Sewing Dentist. Education gave me dentistry and my anointed gift gave me Okuzodza and I am thriving in both.”
Paidamoyo feeds on the enthusiasm of how Okuzodza bags sell themselves, how they bring in new clients. Okuzodza works mostly through referrals. Their neat finishing and attention to detail are what make them stand out. They carefully select their material so that they are unique and of the highest quality at a reasonable price, as they understand that a bag is a life-time investment.
“We make all our bags from scratch so this allows the customer to be part of the bag creation process. We do not cover bags or import bags.”
“Yes, one day we will compete on the global market, by perfecting our skill and producing an exceptional bag that no one can ignore. Each bag that goes out will represent Okuzodza and that one piece will cross the border and be our ambassador.
“With every challenge and win, we intend on learning how to grow our business through marketing, networking and good financial management, taking up every opportunity we have to get our brand out there. Most of all, I believe that as this is our vision, to dominate the handbag fashion industry God will provide and guide us in our walk.”
When you need a fashionable item, you try to keep a keen eye on the street-scene and checkout what other people are wearing to see what’s in fashion. Okuzodza bags are an investment and the Sewing Dentist will design for you.
“I find inspiration in pictures of nature. Nature has the best colour combinations like the different colours in the sky at sunset or the different colours on a single flower. Nature has different shapes, textures and movements. So when I am blank I go outside with my camera. Most of my product pictures are done outside. Function of the bag then determines the more geometric dimensions such as size and general shape. I also turn to sites such as Pinterest and Esty.”
“I mostly use Ankara/Java prints. The designs are vibrant, I just love them. You cannot be sad with a bright yellow or pink bag! Lately I have started playing around with leather and am loving the end product. Most of my materials are locally sourced except the Ankara which I get from Ghana.
“One tip I would like to pass on is to actually ask people where they get their custom bags from! Sure, don’t be shy about asking, go ahead and approach somebody if you see a bag that you like — how else are you going to be able to find it? If fact, Okuzodza bags are to die for, and just maybe, we already have leather fanny packs for summer come September.”