Supersoft tee’s emblazoned with artful graphics and beautiful brown models sporting designs that are equally lively put Zulu Rose directly in front of our style radar. Clutch talked to the founder, Alex, to get the goods on the vision and creative force behind the brand.
Q: When did Zulu Rose launch?
The short answer is… I was designing clothes prior to 2004, but I was not using the name Zulu Rose. Zulu Rose “officially” launched in 2004 in a handful of boutiques on Melrose, Santa Monica, and Abbot Kinney in 2004.
Q: How did you come up with the name Zulu Rose?
I was forced to come up with the name when I discovered that a boutique on Hollywood Boulevard was actually sewing their label into my clothes. I credit my daughter with the name. She came up with the name during a brainstorming session. The moment she said it, I knew it was destined to become something.
Zulu Rose sounded so sweet to my ears. It has so many meanings. At first glance Zulu is for the rugged guys, Rose is for the soft seductive girl with an edge (beware the thorns!!!). Zulu Rose also has this clever connection with my rock and roll sensibilities (Guns & Roses). The name also conveys a sense of grandeur. Shaka Zulu, was an iconic South African warrior King. A rose is a luxurious flower, but is also an occult icon par excellence, full of alchemical mystery and majesty.
The combination of Zulu and Rose is powerful, fashionable, and majestic without having to resort to clichÃ©s or overly ostentatious images to convey an artificial sense of wealth, power, status, or refinement.
Q: What’s the vision behind Zulu Rose?
Some people hear Zulu Rose and immediately think of traditional black African fashion(mud cloth, grand Boubous, Kente Clothe, et al). My vision as well as the challenge of Zulu Rose is continue to develop a high-end lifestyle range that lives up to such a powerful name, while remaining appealing to a chic international audience of trend setters, artists, taste makers and fashion forward progressive people of *all* ethnic backgrounds. Zulu Rose has an African flair, but it’s not all about Africa. Zulu Rose is about being you in a time when the world is full of flakes, fakes and half bakes.
The Zulu Rose concept is deeper than just trying to be ‘hot,’ ‘trendy’ or ‘in-style.’ Once your ‘in-style’ the next logical step is to be ‘out-of-style.’ I see Zulu Rose being its’ own style of living and dressing with it’s own trends from season to season.
We are hanging on the racks with established brands like Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, and Renzo Rossi’s Diesel. Eventually these kinds of lifestyle brands will be Zulu Rose’s main competition. I am already seeing their clients starting to buy ZR. Slowly they will start coming to our side. The defection process starts one piece at a time. But we are also trying to capture a new audience of people who aspire to be part of a more international, chic, funky lifestyle movement. This is what the Zulu Rose name is bringing to the marketplace.
Q: Who is behind the brand?
I am the brain behind the brand. After all, I created it and like to think I know were it is going. But I can not take all the credit. A team of like minded individuals has pulled itself together and they are helping to make Zulu Rose into an international brand whose focus is cutting edge design and premier styling. They are the people who are going to raise the profile and international perception of the brand.
Q: How would you describe your most recent collection?
Our spring 2008 collection is a fusion of West Africa and West Broadway. The silhouettes are fitted, the colors are inspired from the 80s. but there is also some stuff that has very subdued tones. I think black skin looks good in bright colors as well as more subtle shades. So I explored both directions. There is some glamour stuff that is emblazoned with gold and silver leaf, as well some pieces in the women’s t-shirt line that have hand braided fabric detailing.
We also have a line of dresses and men’s shirts based on fabric from one of the emerging textile companies in West Africa.
Q: What items are included in your collection?
We are currently focusing on our casual men’s and women’s tops. We still make the occasional suit, evening dresses, hand painted belts with custom buckles, blazers and a variety of other bespoke garments for special clients. We will be re-introducing more ready to wear products over time. Right now, we want to expand our presence with items you can wear every day. Our range will grow out of what we feel our customers need. For example, we could add umbrellas to the range, but would a Zulu Rose use an umbrella, wear a slicker, or just enjoy the wet?
We definitely will be launching a scarf line fall 08. This summer I lost a very beautiful scarf I got in Nigeria. Instead of trying to find a replacement, or just making a new one for myself, I started putting together a whole range of funky scarves for men and women. PROTECT YA NECK in 2008!
Q: What materials do you use?
The best. I am a real material hound. And I know my customers like nice things and expect nothing but the best in terms of sewing, material texture, quality, color and decorations. So I have chosen materials from the world’s best sources. It is also important for Zulu Rose materials to be environmentally sustainable. We use low-impact dyes, environmentally neutral screen printing inks, and organic fabric finishes. These products do come at a premium, primarily because they have not been fully integrated into the garment industry. But most of the new “Green” materials coming out perform better than conventional materials. So that is an added bonus.
A side note regarding Zulu Rose and sustainability. In March we were in Brazil and we donated a significant amount of samples and over-stock items to several of Rio’s Favelas (ghettos). We have to know that we can help each other!
Q: Who or what inspires you in the design process?
My biggest inspirations is music. I love music. I am always listening to all kinds of music from all over the world. Right now I am listening to some of the old Police albums, The Kinks, Lilly Allen, The White Stripes, some Bollywood stuff I picked up in Bombay, some of Frankie Beverly’s classic joints, Best of Luther Vandross and a couple Fela albums. I don’t discriminate on music. I just love strong lyrics, good melodies and funky bass lines. If it comes from the soul I’ll like it.
My mother also had a strong influence on me growing up. She is still a real fashion hound, art collector, and avid reader. Her weakness is shoes, her collection has been compared to Imelda Marcos. I have to agree with that comparison. Last time I was home, she turned my old bedroom into storage room for her shoes! Each shoe box has an id number, and an accompanying Polaroid! I guess it’s no wonder that the first thing I look at when I see a woman is her shoes. Most of the time I am thinking, “God damn! Why the hell did she wear those shoes with that outfit!”
Another inspiration is my childhood house. I grew up in a 4 story, 26 room, 80 year old English Tudor with a large outdoor swimming pool and a duck pond. That place is very classical, romantic, and inspiring. My love of nature, art, and the purity of form and pattern definitely comes from growing up in that house. Living in that space refined my tastes and helped me to appreciate and expect quality, and fine craftsmanship.
Q: Describe the type of individual that wears Zulu Rose?
Zulu Rose is about experiencing different and unique perspectives in the form of fashion. Fashion is a culture, meaning that it cultivates your life. For me, true fashion magnifies the lifestyle and enriches the quality of life by exposing you to other modes of existence, extravagance, and opulence via the power and magic of costume. If you understand this you will appreciate what Zulu Rose can do for you.
We have all kinds of people wearing our clothes from all kinds of backgrounds. You have established women like Susan Taylor from Essence magazine. She is a fan of Zulu Rose. Mrs. Talyor wore one of our evening dresses to the 2006 BLACK STYLE NOW exhibit in Manhattan. She continues to patronize.
Then you have up and coming stars like Keyshia Cole wearing Zulu Rose in her latest video. Keziah Jones has a couple of our shirt and trousers suits (ups and downs), the world-renowned DJ Osunlade is also rocking. Our online boutique is shipping to Japan, Europe and Australia. So really it’s a world wide audience. I guess the best thing to say is “quality people are attracted to quality merchandise.”
Q: Where can readers purchase Zulu Rose?
This fall we are on hiatus. I’ve been out of the country for the last six months. Instead of rushing a fall/winter production, we are gearing up for the spring with a 30 piece collection.
The Zulu Rose sales team is working around the clock to bring the spring collection to a boutique near you. So keep your eyes peeled. But in the mean time, for those interested in experiencing our range of products, an up-to-date list of retails stores can be found on our website.www.zulurose.com We will definitely keep Clutch readers posted on what is going on at Zulu Rose. Thank you very, very much for the interview.