Zimbabwean born and London based Apparel and Graphics Designer; Terrie “Gunz” Mahati, is out on a mission. He is scratching his name into the fabric of the street wear world!
At age 13, Terrie was scribbling images on his white t-shirt in permanent ink. But as a college student, he won a bank loan competition and the journey began. Armed with graphic designing and pattern making expertise, Terrie launched Kunta Kinte Conscious Clothing in 1995. That range sold so well that he repaid the loan in 3 months. In 2000, he moved to London and gained more recognition in what was then a sportswear market dominated by the likes of Nike, Reebok, Adidas and Puma.
Terrie achieved his biggest achievements so far in 2005, by winning The Zimbabwe Achievers Award and meeting Mark Ecko, one of his favourite designers.
Terrie looked hard and found a niche market for Africans living in diaspora that wanted to be identified with their roots and not all the other expensive Western paraphernalia that everyone was wearing on the street. In 2008, Harare Hustler debuted at Zimfest London where one of the performing rap artists wore one of the t-shirts with the Harare Hustler logo on it and drove the crowd into a buying frenzy. Since then, Harare Hustler is being made in bulk and sold online. It also has distributors in Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Canada, Australia and the world over.
The sister collection called “Top Kosso” (meaning beautiful girl), was also launched to cater for the women as well as accessories in the form of caps and necklaces. Terrie has recently added smart, button down shirts as well as leather products to his collections. A kid’s wear range with the same theme is also in the pipeline.
AfroCosmopolitan caught up with Terrie through a Skype video interview at home in his kitchen cooking. Dressed in Harare Hustler, dreadlocks with a cap to match, he skilfully multitasks between cooking and answering the questions. Below is what he has to say.
AC: Can you define who Terrie Mahati is and what he is about?
TM: “I was born in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1970. I went to Prince Edward School, then the Polytechnical College for 3 years where I studied pattern cutting and design. My mum owned a lingerie company so I would help her out to cut fabrics or patterns and I also did small printing jobs for companies such as Coca Cola and House of Kumali.”
AC: What does fashion mean to you and what is the first article you ever made?
TM:” Fashion to me is about loud, bold in your face designs! I listen to the people and their suggestions. It means trendsetting and making comfortable, practical clothes. I don’t know about other designers, but I am always listening to Hip hop music when I work because that is the music I grew up with and watched how the artists dressed. Personally I like F.U.B.U (now Kuji), Ecko, Maurice Malon and Rocawear. The first article I ever made was a Kunta Kinte t-shirt (Tribe Vibe Designs) in Harare. The quality was not that good then, but I was just buying t-shirts and printing on them – not actually making them myself. Quality is very important. Labels have to be sewn properly, and the graphics and fabric should be durable. Even when you send the finished product, the presentation of the packaging is important.
AC: Where do you source your fabric from and which fabrics do you work with the most?
TM: “From Taiwan, India, Portugal and China. China is a bit frustrating because they are inconsistent in their production and supply. And sometimes, the outcome is not what you had agreed on. This for me is the lowest point in the process of achieving my goals. I travel to the different countries to source the fabrics because I know the manufacturers, but the price of cotton fluctuates so I have to keep that in mind when I do business. I like to experiment with different fabric weights because I have to consider that the climates are different in each continent. For example, I cannot use the same fabric for t-shirts that I sell in South Africa as the ones I sell in Austria because Africa is generally warmer and one will sweat more so the fabric needs to be lighter for Africa, and heavier for Austria. I also work more with black and grey because generally, the male customers do not like bright colours because they get dirty easily. But people are slowly changing and I have managed to convince some to try out light green. Fashion is timeless, you have to keep researching what is new.”
AC: Why do you think you enjoy doing this so much?
TM: “I love seeing people’s reactions when they see my products for the first time. I had a guy walk up to me in town the other day just to tell me how he was really proud of what I am doing in promoting Zimbabwean heritage in the form of street wear. I promote the Zimbabwean Hip-Hop culture and they support me by wearing my clothes. Artists such as Stunner, Metaphysics, Karlprit, Killa and Roby Gee.
I use to shoot promotional photos with models but now the customers send me the photos of themselves wearing my clothes. I don’t really do shows to showcase my stuff but it is done on my behalf. I have had it with going out and people thinking they can just walk up to you when you are in a bar and demand that you sell them a t-shirt on the spot. I am very accessible and so is my product, but I do not want to be overexposed. You are your product so you have to keep it together in public. I would rather stay home working and listening to hip hop.”
AC: How long does it take to make a piece from the idea generation to the finished product and where can customers find your product?
TM: “It takes about a month from sketching, computer, and samples approval. So, about 3 to 4 weeks, but I have branched out and produce in bulk. I do not stock in shops because it is too stressful. So, I sell online because I have an established market and goods move in at least 2 weeks. I discontinue production of each design after production to avoid customers seeing other people wearing the same thing”.
Facebook Page: Harare Hustler
Phone: Phone: +44 07455696125
Whatsapp: +44 7701047535
This year, Terrie will open a shop in Harare (Avondale or Newlands), and will make more university gear and school uniforms while expanding distribution in Africa. He and his daughter will make a cameo appearance in Roby Gee’s new video. His advice to aspiring designers is, “Don’t be afraid to come out, there is enough food for all of us to eat”. Enough said Terrie….Respect!
Photo Credits: Terrie Mahati Archive