The “Chitenge” : Traditional yet trendy

IT is something that Zambians and even most Africans in general have known to be conservative and traditional.   From Sunday church service to initiation ceremonies or at home as a sign of respect, the famous "chitenge" material has always been worn as a typical traditional garment.  

More and more people are found rocking chitenge wear and doing it well at various occasions, and now, even in night clubs! IT is something that Zambians and even most Africans in general have known to be conservative and traditional.
 
From Sunday church service to initiation ceremonies or at home as a sign of respect, the famous "chitenge" material has always been worn as a typical traditional garment.
 
Chitenge is anAfrican garment similar to sarong, often worn by women wrapped around the chest or waist, over the head as a headscarf, or as a baby sling.
 
Now that the fashion industry is evolving in ways no one could ever imagine, local designers are marketing this material to all ages and sexes as a way to keep the cultural aspect alive but still encourage all types of people to wear chitenge fashionably.

 
More and more people are found rocking chitenge wear and doing it well at various occasions, and now, even in night clubs!
 
Local designers such as Charity Nyirongo of Mo’ Couture and Creations, Chiza Ngulube of Esnoko and Towani Clarke of Kutowa designs are keeping the chitenge culture alive but doing so in a trendy way with an edge.
 
Who knew a chitenge can be worn as a blazer or mixed with lace to make an elegant evening gown? Or that its loud prints can be used to make a beautiful summer dress? Add black chiffon and you have a chic little black dress with a simple yet colourful chitenge belt.
 
Now, a chitenge can be worn in many ways other than the conventional ways dictated by society. You can dress it up or dress it down, the designs and ways of wearing it are almost infinite.
 
Chatting with a few random people, it is discovered that people are more willing to wear chitenge outfits now than they were before, because then the designs were ‘simple and boring’ making chitenge look like it was only for the older generation.
 
"Then, the only reason I wore chitenge was if I was forced by my aunt or for African Freedom Day at school, but now I can happily wear chitenge material because the latest designs appeal to me as a person. I don’t even want to wear western clothes as much as I did weeks ago,’ says Tandy Lungu from the school of Humanities and Social Sciences at Unza.
 
Jay Kale who works at a store in Manda Hill agrees. ‘The fact that now even designs for guys are included is encouraging, because most designers concentrate on clothes for women while they just make simple and similar designs for the men.’
 
He adds that chitenge material is rich in so many ways and that it is something precious like a jewel most people will realise later as the best. Its fabric looks good and it is comfortable but when professionally designed, its fashion speaks with each unique design.
 
Jay says he likes to wear chitenge and would like more designers to get more comfortable with it in their work so that more people enjoy this trend everywhere in the world.
 
It surely is refreshing to see different types of people embracing material that typically describes most African attires. Thanks to local fashion shows, social media and influential people, this author leaves you with something to think about, that chitenge can be traditional yet trendy.

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Michael Weber

Michael is supporting the team behind the Luska Star. He is a big fan of Zambia and loves to work with the local talents at UNZA.

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