Saturday, July 2, 2022

An unsung, but uniquely talented couture designer

You have to count for something if you draw on the world-renown Garavani Valentino as your inspiration. But then Rita Abbey-Chuma says she is aiming for the stars.

She speaks passionately about her dreams and aspirations for her fashion label, Rit-ac Collections. If the name is unfamiliar, make no mistake, she is a creative talent.

Rita may not hold the same star power of the Mpho Kuaho’s of today or the Ineeleng Kavindama’s of yesteryear, but she is fired by the same passion of the modern fashionista.

A love of clean lines. Elaborate use of pleats. Ability to visualize the garment that best suits you. It is, perhaps, the soul of Haute Couture.

Originally from Ghana, Rita has been a fashion designer for seven years now and runs Rit-ac Collections with her husband, Ronald Chuma, a Kalanga who does most of the promotion and marketing for the label.

Her work station in Gaborone Phase 2 is a collection of fine wedding gowns, bridal wear, beauty pageant frocks, evening wear, casual wear and even jeans. They range from the formal to the startlingly chic to the trendy.

“I’m comfortable with designing your high fashion runway garment, regular pair of jeans, dungarees, even Setswana traditional print dresses,” she says simply.

Rita began her apprenticeship at an early age under her mother, who was a uniquely talented couture designer in Ghana.
“I grew up seeing her sketch, make patterns, fit mannequins and I picked up on those things,” she recalls fondly.

That apprenticeship has paid off because today you can see that Haute Couture is part of Rita’s DNA. From developing a concept and vision for the type of person she would like to dress, to creating a visual image of her concept through sketches or drapery to the actual production that gives life to those sketches, she works flawlessly.

Where does she get her motivation?

“From nature, for one,” she says. “I’ll look at a flower and see a concept for design there.” She says that sometimes an idea will be triggered in her dream, and she will awake and sketch furiously.

While the tell tale signs were there early as she would find herself stitching and sewing after watching her mother work, she realized her calling while studying accountancy in Gaborone. She would find herself making sketches instead of listening to the drone of the AAT lessons. It led her to quit accountancy and enroll for Design at Decatic College.

Rita says the conscious really became clear in 2005 during her wedding. She had designed the second attire for the bridesmaids and all the shirts for the men. As the MC asked the bride to take a bow for her creative talents, Rita knew where she was going.
It is not only Valentino she looks up to. She says she finds David Tlale, the South African award-winning fashion designer alluring because of his sheer passion.

“It’s the love for the craft you see in him above anything else that draws me,” she says. “And, of course, the belief in perfection.”
It is true that talent creates its own tenure. In 2008 Naledi Secondary School students held a fashion show and asked Rita to interview models and do the auditions. The show was transformation into the Rit-ac Fashion Show. It was just the beginning.

Among others, she has gone on to design clothes for Nurace Clothing for a fashion show and dressed the Second Princess for Miss Valentine 2012 and the winner of Miss Botho College 2012.

As a budding star couture designer, she has aspirations of dressing socialites and being swamped by orders from retail chains like Woolworths and Foschini.

An international catwalk debut perhaps?  There is a Sea of established labels out there, but talent will always shine through.
“Rita’s designs are stylish and classy,” says Koketso Bosa, a model who has worn her garments and jeans. “She will tell you what suits your body.”

With Rit-ac Collections, Rita has clearly borrowed from her mother in making an eclectic mix of African and western attire, but has brought her own personality into it by appealing to youth who like casual street wear.

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