ABURY meets designer Pam Samasuwo-Nyawiri

Zimbabwean designer Pam Samasuwo-Nyawiri was the first winner of the ABURY Design Experience, our international accessories design competition, and is the face behind the Non Existent Tribe Collection. This collection is a fair trade collection that draws inspiration from the Himba tribes of Namibia and the indigenous people of Ecuador by fusing the two cultures together.

Pam Samasuwo was always inspired by fashion and consequently went back to University to study Fashion Accessory Design. The fact that she first got a degree in Journalism and Communications underlines her passion for creativity and her insatiable curiosity.

She was also the first African designer with a nomination for the Vogue and Muuse “Best International Emerging Fashion Accessory Designer” 2014. And this was not going to be the last recognition she would receive for her work in an Accessories Design Competition. That same year she also received a nomination for the prestigious Mulberry Accessory Award for “The best directional collection “. She went on to be awarded with an academic fashion award from the Nottingham Trent University. In 2015, her brand Vanhu Vamwe received multiple awards in its first year of operation. Currently, Pam writes for several publications and committed herself to this ethical framework of ”products that give back” by working with artisan communities globally. Fair trade production remains one of Pam Samasuwo’s main principles.

Portrait of Designer Pam Samasuwo-Nyawiri in colourful dress and headscarf
© Photo by Suzana Holtgrave for ABURY


Pam Samasuwo, let’s start with which 3 words describe you best?

#colourful #unconventional #unapologetic

If you could choose to live one day in the life of another designer, who would it be and why?

It would definitely be Martin Margiela. I love the way his mind works. It is very much uncluttered and his simplicity, minimalistic mixed with avant-garde is quite delightful. He is an example that good quality work speaks for itself. For many years he neither had a social media presence nor any advertising and yet his work was hugely in demand.

What does it mean to you to be a selected designer at ABURY?

The ABURY Design Experience pretty much sums up all the things I believe in as a designer. The opportunity was life changing! It would not do it justice just by describing what it meant to me in a sentence. This is a book waiting to be written. What the ABURY Design Experience says on paper is far greater than an applicant would expect. It gave me new eyes, a new heart, and a new attitude to life. I will never be the same again. It is a great honour to be a designer at ABURY.  You are not just a designer, but part of an expanding family with beliefs that focus on serving others. That is priceless.

ABURY Design Experience winner Pam Samasuwo with her guest family in Ecuador
© Photo by Franziska Uhlmann
Tell us about how it was to work with the communities?

Different cultures, different beliefs merging together is always going to be hard work. However, the saying ”When in Rome do as the Romans do”, served a huge purpose. The community was amazing to work with. We developed a system of team work from the beginning where everyone’s input mattered. Overwhelmed by their love and acceptance of me. We did chores together, designed together and solved any problematic issues with sampling together. It was such a pleasure to see both our growth and the trust we developed will not only be for the ABURY Design Experience but continue in the future.

ABURY designer Pam Samasuwo working with artisan in Ecuador
© Photo by Franziska Uhlmann
As an accessory designer, where do you generally get the inspiration for your collections from?

Generally as a designer if you find inspiration only by certain things then that’s a shame. It’s a great limitation to the design process.

I am very open minded and able to find inspiration for design in everything from a book to someone’s personality. The design process has changed a lot over the years. First of all so many designers inspired by nature or architecture; it became so predictable, in my opinion. Although with the rise of more designers looking to art, social conflict and other areas for inspiration, design concepts have become more interesting as a basis for story telling. I try to stay true to that concept: inspiration that tells a story.

Zimbabwean designer Pam Samasuwo in Ecuador
© Photo by Franziska Uhlmann
…and what inspired you to design your Non Existent Tribe Collection?

The collection draws inspiration from the Himba tribes of Namibia, and the indigenous people of Ecuador by fusing the two cultures together. The collection, shaped by the way both cultures carry objects. The aim was to bring to life a visual identity from both cultures that celebrated their traditional craftsmanship with a modern twist. Therefore, the collection highlights that beauty exists in that which is deemed different. By naming the design after the artisan who worked on it, the design tells the story of the maker.

Pam Samasuwo’s handmade collection, which she developed in fair trade production and in collaboration with local artisans in Ecuador, brought its magical spirit from the Andes mountains to this part of the world. Of course you can buy it in the ABURY shop.

Lara Petersen

Lara Petersen

After her studies abroad and exploring the world for many years, Lara returned to Berlin in 2015 and ever since combines her passions cultures, communication and writing by working as part of the ABURY family. Lara is the editor-in-chief and admin of the One of a Mind blogzine by ABURY.

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