Newsday - January 4, 2018

Benza: The engineer who picked a needle

BRIAN Benza, who was born on November 4, 1997 in Redcliff, knew from early childhood that he would pursue a fashion dream. He described his childhood as an adventure, which saw his family temporarily relocating to Botswana between 1998 and 2004.

In 2007, they moved to Namibia. Benza said the experiences exposed him to different cultures and personalities and helped him learn several languages. He attended Acacia Pre and Primary Schools in Botswana, then Goldridge and Fitchlea Primary Schools in Kwekwe, Zimbabwe.

He did Grade 8-9 at Highlands Christian School in Windhoek, Namibia and then proceeded to Green Gables in Bulawayo for Form 3 and 4 before wrapping up his schooling with his A-Level studies at Goldridge College. He is currently a mining engineering student at Namibia University of Science and Technology.

ND: You are studying mining engineering. What then made you pursue fashion designing?

BB: Growing up, I loved dressing up and always looking good, even when I had to do simple errands such as going to buy bread. That passion kept growing bigger and bigger within me, especially during high school. In my free time, I create and brainstorm and I have always wanted to change or influence people’s lives for the better. Those two traits, plus the passion for fashion, resulted in me finally building the courage to pursue fashion designing.

ND: Tell us about your clothing range?

BB: The current clothing range by [DRIPSET] Inc. is called “The Chaos Theory”. It is inspired by the butterfly effect, which is the scientific concept behind the Chaos Theory originally by Edward Lorenz.

In simple terms, it translates to “small causes, large effects”. These are the words you see embroidered on the cap/strap back of the current collection. The butterfly effect, as an example, is that a small effect, such as a butterfly flapping its wings in Asia can cause a Tornado in America. Just as such, your attitude as an individual may determine the vote of confidence you get one day to become a chief executive officer.

Just like how the butterfly starts off as a caterpillar and transforms into such a beautiful creature after the cocoon process, the full collection will be released this year, 2018, and will include several pieces such as kimonos, pants and more T-shirts.

ND: You mentioned [DRIPSET] Inc. Can you elaborate on this.

BB: I would like to call it a movement. It is made up of two things — fashion and lifestyle blogging and fashion designing. If you read [DRIPSET]’s regular blog posts, you will notice how life lessons are always incorporated into fashion during discussions because fashion goes beyond just the clothes. That is what [DRIPSET] is about.

Most of us, especially in Africa, save up (money) for long periods of time and rush to buy designer clothing from abroad. We do not even know what these designs symbolise apart from the one-sentence description from the brand.

ND: Your clothing line is about motivating people to follow their soul. How does that work?

BB: The blogging aspect helps with explaining what the clothing line is providing to the consumers and behind every [DRIPSET] collection is a motive, a story that anybody will relate to.

The objective is to make people take their passion seriously regardless of societal norms and stereotypes. If you push and use your dream in an innovative way, you will surely produce a product driven solely from your dreams and nothing else.

It will be as much as following your soul and what you want to do, instead of producing a product or pursuing something fueled by stereotypes or the current profitable fashion trends.

ND: At what stage in your life did you become interested in fashion and designing?

BB: As soon as my mother gave me the chance to dress myself [laughs]. That was when I became interested in fashion and designing. This was during my early high school years.

ND: Did you ever think you would become a professional fashion designer?

BB: For myself, yes, for the world, no. But why limit myself? It would be selfish to deprive the world of what is coming from [DRIPSET] Inc.

ND: Where do you draw your inspiration?

BB: Firstly, (from) my parents. They have inspired me a lot by simply providing for us regardless of the economic situation, and teaching us that everything in life has its set time, that patience is a virtue.

Another inspirational role in my life was played by one of my late uncles with whom I lived during most of my primary school life. He inspired me to be the best in everything I did. He always emphasised that life is not a competition, focus on what is yours and grow as an individual.

ND: How do you juggle the two engineering studies and fashion designing?

BB: [Laughs]. I get this question a lot. If I am to be totally honest, I do not have a formula on time management or a specific way to juggle the two.

Engineering is extremely demanding and requires a lot of studying. For some reason, I cannot focus fully on academics during the day.

My optimal focus point is usually just before midnight and I usually pull all-nighters. By day, I am brain-storming, drafting and working on [DRIPSET] Inc.

As long as you do not procrastinate, you will not find yourself in a time management crisis. Everything will fall into place by the minute if you just keep a constant work ethic.

ND: Who are some of the top designers that have inspired you?

BB: Raf Simons, a Belgian fashion designer, who launched his menswear in 1995, former creative director of Christian Dior and current chief creative officer of Calvin Klein.

He is a pacesetter and visionary. His designs from as far back as 2000 are inspirations behind some of the biggest collections today, even from top streetwear brands such as Off-White by Virgil Abloh.

Reshaping Calvin Klein’s aesthetic topped by making history as the second designer to win both categories in the same year at the CFDA awards this year winning best designer for both menswear and womenswear. The only other designer was Calvin Klein himself, in 1993.

ND: When you decided to take up the needle, how was the reaction from your family and friends?

BB: Everyone thought it was a joke. But they were the first to realise that, okay, this is actually real. Now they believe in me and have been supportive ever since.

ND: Why is fashion so significant when you can just dress up as you feel?

BB: Sometimes, you may wake up in a bad mood, shower, dress up and go about your day like that because it is the same routine, then you end up ruining the day for others (Laughs). v Why not try to cheer yourself up before you face the world by something as simple as dressing up and wearing something new or trying out a new style, something to make you excited?

ND: There are so many fashion designers. What would you say is your X-factor?

BB: Presenting fashion is not just about the clothes. I connect the gap between fashion and real life struggles and everyday life. I use my designs and fashion to change people’s lives for the best.

ND: Can someone become a successful fashion designer through training, or it is an inborn gift?

BB: I feel like you can train to become a successful tailor, but not a designer. Being a designer is inborn.

ND: Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years?

BB: I see myself owning a chain of [DRIPSET] Inc. stores, and agencies to spot talent. From whatever yields [DRIPSET] Inc. brings in, some will go on to investing in the mining sector in Africa or outside.

ND: What is your parting shot?

BB: Stop looking for shortcuts to opening certain doors in your life. Put all that effort into creating your doors. Activate your DRIP (Dream, Realise, Innovate and Produce) before it is too late.