Philadelphia native and Kent State Freshman Garmai Zayzay grew up creating unique designs and coordinating her own outfits, almost as if she was born with a passion for everything fashion.
Inspired by bold patterns and colors of traditional African prints and fabrics, the self-taught fashion design major recreated this two-piece look based only off a photo of an original design by @laviebyck posted to Instagram.
“Sometimes I take inspiration from other people that I look up to in the industry,” she says, “but I do love to design my own things.”
After taking measurements and prepping her fabric, Zayzay soon found the skirt to be the most difficult part of the design process, seeing as it required two layers of slitted fabric, horsehair for volume and a zipper to join the two pieces together. However, the top proved to be much easier, requiring only a long strip of fabric and lining.
“It was pretty simple after I calculated it and figured out what I was actually going to do to get the look to be the same as my inspiration,” she says.
In her early school years, Zayzay dealt with bullying from peers due to her African descent, which led her to be ashamed of her culture at a young age. However, by the time she was in middle school, she regained her appreciation and love for her roots, she says.
“When people show you hate there’s something great in you,” she says. “They were hating on the fact that I was from Africa, so there was something great, and there are great things that come out of Africa.”
Though she came to Kent with a major in architecture and a goal of rehabilitating Liberia, where her parents are from, and Ghana, where she was born. Zayzay soon found that she couldn’t shake her love for design leading to her change in majors, but being recognized for her talent proved she made the right choice, she says.
“I saw some really great pieces from other people, and I really didn’t expect to win,” she says. “I’ve already felt welcomed by the staff and students at Kent State, but [winning] just made me feel like this is where I’m supposed to be.”
When it comes to the outfit she designed, Zayzay says the pattern she used, along with other traditional African fabric, reminds her of her ancestors and what they left behind.
“These prints and patterns were made by our ancestors, and they left it for us to remember who we are,” she says. “So whenever I use it, it reminds me that I’m from Africa … and reminds us of all the things that our ancestors did and worked for.”
To keep up with Garmai Zayzay, follow her on Instagram @jarmailove.