THE mere mention of the name Wani Baker evokes a glut of mixed feelings among a cross section of Zimbabweans.
Baker has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that she is one of the leading young female designers in Bulawayo and the country.
In fact, she is fast becoming a dresser of choice having dressed the who’s who of Bulawayo’s cat-walk industry and celebrities.
Her friends hail her as a perfect example of a multi-talented woman who is rising to the top of the fashion design industry.
Because of her talent, Baker is a member of the Bulawayo Board of Designers.
Just last week, Baker, who owns Umlongo Designs, showcased her designs at the Intwasa Fashion Show and dressed some of the models.
She is a deeply religious woman who believes that her every achievement is due to God.
“Everything did not come on a silver plate, but through hard work and dedication to work,” she said. “I am so grateful to God who gave me strength.
“I am grateful to God because He has given me the strength and vision to fulfil my dreams. My works make me realise that l can do bigger and better. I do appreciate my works and they have put me on a competitive platform and made me believe in myself and realise that nothing is impossible with God.”
The married mother of one is a member of the Jehovah’s Witness.
Born in Plumtree, Baker moved to Bulawayo and went to Inyathi High School.
She said her journey into fashion designing started when she was young.
“I remember when growing up seeing my grandmother make a lot of beautiful designs and I would take some foil paper from the boxes of used cigarettes and dress my dolls wishing that my dress be like that one day,” she said.
“I had a zeal of doing fashion designing when grew up. I collected all different kinds of fabric then and made something nice. I knew one day I would reach these dizzy heights.
“Before, I was a nurse then I left because l could not carry on with what l did not like. Right now l am doing what l like and enjoying it.”
Baker’s designs cater for both women and men.
“I do crazy stuff to impress and yes people are falling in love with my designs. I own Umlongo Designs. Umlongo is a Kalanga name for bride and these are the bride dresses that are elegant African attire.”
She said creativity was her strongest point and besides designing, she does jewellery, accessories and shoes that match hand bags.
Baker recently won an award for being adjudged the best female designer at the Matabeleland Fashion Week where she showcased and dressed some models at the Intwasa Fashion Show.
“I have showcased at different occasions in Bulawayo and I have worked with different designers,” she said.
“One thing I have realised is that it’s not about awards, but it’s all about performing something of good quality. I am really happy to be part of the designers.”
Baker said she faced some challenges of not being able to find the exact thing that she wanted from the shops for her designs.
“When I go to the shop, I don’t find what I want. I want something that represents me and who I am,” she said.
Baker also markets her finished products online.
“I have no shop and I work from home,” the designer added. I market my finished products online. I got my inspiration from Plumtree.
That place is very fashionable believe you me, you find all sorts of different fashion styles and the people there inspired me.
“My inspiration also comes from my husband who has been with me and encouraged me.”
During her spare time, Baker said she enjoys family time and loves travelling and getting to know and being exposed to different cultures.
She expressed gratitude to her husband, family and friends for being supportive and encouraged other upcoming designers not to give up until they realised their dreams.
“It’s good to try and one should not be afraid to start a business,” she said.
“I would like to thank my husband who has been supportive and has been with me.”