Bongiwe was born in a small community in Mqanduli, in Eastern Cape Province here in South Africa. Walaza grew up enjoying knitting and sewing. Her interest in arts & crafts and passion for making her own clothes was evident from an early age. She learnt to make clothes from her mother’s fabric who was a dressmaker. Bongiwe studied for a National Diploma in electrical engineering at Peninsula Tech from 1987 to 1990. As she was working for Telkom, she began designing and making dresses for herself and soon built a loyal client base. Unhappy with the skill of her dressmaking, in 1997 she decided to study fashion at Natal Technikon. She qualified with a National Diploma in Fashion.
She has also been a product developer for Wild Silk Africa while providing training for several of its employees. As a result of her innovative use of fabrics, Walaza also consults closely with renowned local textile company, Da Gama, which is developing a product for their Mandela range. Her company has also designed for Edgar’s stores. Walaza is presently involved in the B’avumile program, a skills development program for women especially in the rural areas.
Inspiration behind her designs
She is using her African heritage as her main designing muse, inspired by different cultures. Growing up in the rural area of Eastern Cape has played the moist important role as one of her inspiration. Tradition runs strongly through her collections, they are truly modern African look that blurs the boundaries between formal and casual. She is known for her Xhosa influences and the fact that she makes real wearable clothes for real women.
Her designs are made to enhance the beauty of a woman’s body shape and movement. Her signature style is self- generated handcrafted detailing, seamless color co-ordination and a figure friendly layering.
She describes her style as African traditional crossed with Victorian using isishweshwe, (an African fabric with African patterns comes with different colours) She produced collections worn by both celebrities and private clients
Shweshwe as it is still worn in parts of Africa, it also have the mix of colonial style and the more traditional
African influences such as, Xhosa’s and Sotho’s.