There are many fashion categories that have benefitted from the pandemic. Loungewear became worth the investment and will still have a place in our day-to-day wardrobes, even as we start to ease out of the darkness. Chunky, sensible shoes and boots—think Tevas, Birkenstocks and even wellies—have been the footwear we gravitate towards on the regular, and there's probably no going back. But with all fashion movements and those more obvious macrotrends comes the flip side. Maybe as a light relief from (or a fight against) our new armoury of ultra-comforting pieces, there has been a steep rise in revealing body-con looks.
Perhaps none have been quite as "viral" as the vibrant, swirly, cut-out, barely-there dresses of Farai London, a brand that was born during the first wave of the pandemic and has proceeded to gather stockists, celebrity fans and influencer devotees at a staggering pace. Already popular on social media, the label—whose confident, skimpy garms are almost instantly recognisable—saw a peak moment after Kylie Jenner wore the signature Gaia dress, and that was only in the first month of business during the summer of 2020. According to Teen Vogue, this particular style became a popular choice for birthday girls the globe over, which makes sense. If you can't wear the most look-at-me outfit to your own birthday, then what's the point?
Since then, the IRL shoppers have notched up, too, and the brand is now stocked at Selfridges and Revolve. East London–based founder Mary-Ann Msengi has tapped into and helped to nurture a community of women who are embracing their bodies in form-fitting, loud clothing for no one but themselves—and maybe for any other fashion lover who can appreciate that level of sass. There is a joy that sparks from every tagged post (there are many of them!), and I wanted to know more. So I spoke with Msengi via email to discover where the brand is going in 2022 and how it has maintained It-girl status…
Introduce our readers to your business. When did you start it, and why?
Farai launched in July 2020, and the past year and a half have been an absolute whirlwind. Starting Farai was always something I wanted to do. I love fashion with a capital L but thought—because I did not have any official training, whether that be in fashion school or business school—it wasn't possible. This is probably the only reason I didn't start sooner. But we thank God for Google! You can teach yourself! There are a plethora of resources, so many things to learn online that helped me start this brand.
How has the past year and a half's pandemic affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?
I mean, we started in the pandemic. So I'm not sure how to answer. No, I'm joking. It helped that people were interacting more with online content, and we are an e-commerce brand. I think we just really pushed our social media and engagement. Ask me this question in a few months. Coming out of the pandemic will be more of an adjustment for us.
What does Farai do differently from your competitor brands?
I think Farai has done so well because we interact with our customers so much. They are the ones who got us to where we are, and we completely recognise that. We love to interact with them, hear ideas on what we should release and what they did or did not like in our older collections. When I was in New York for our presentation with Revolve, I even met a few of the girls and just hung out. Or our recent Selfridges presentation, we had our top UK customers at the event, and just breaking that brand-customer wall is so refreshing.
Photo:Courtesy of Farai London
What are your best-selling products, and why do you think that is?
Our best-selling product is definitely the Hera dress. I think it appeals to all individuals. It is bold in colour so is a statement piece. The midi length appeals to those who like to cover up more, whilst the body-con shows off all figures. The girls cannot get enough of it! There have been so many times where we say we are absolutely not restocking! No way! And then a few customers will message us, and then we just… do.
What do you think it is about body-con that feels right again for the time we're living in?
We are in such a body-positive movement right now. Of course, there is always growth to be made but is an undeniable radical loving of the self. Body-con ties so well in that because you can show off any figure in gorgeous colours and prints and look sexy! More and more people want to show off their body, and our dresses reflect that. I like to think they say, "Hi, I am here. I have arrived, and I love my body." It is unbelievably beautiful.
Have you had any real "pinch me" moments? There are some amazing celebs wearing Farai.
So, so, so many. The growth honestly makes me want to pinch myself every day, especially thinking of the short time frame. Going to events and seeing people in Farai, being able to put faces to customers, having people I look up to in something I created?! Meg Thee Stallion wore my dress?! Crazy. Of course, being in Selfridges is up there, too.
How did Selfridges find you, and how pivotal has that been in growing the business?
They DM'd me! Selfridges is so elite. A well-known, reputable retailer that just completed elevated us, it legitimises us as a small brand in such a huge way. More people ask questions about who the brand is and how we got there—but in a good way, in an admirable way. I am so thankful for that.
Tell us your plans to expand your business?
Now that would be telling! We could honestly never have imagined the growth of this year. We are just going with the flow, organically growing and seeing where this year takes us. I'm a dreamer, so I see massive things for Farai London—more retailers, bigger collections, a store… but I shan't say too much.
Photo:Courtesy of Farai London
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