‘Dress your age!’…the evolution of Tuku’s fashion, style


Oliver Mtukudzi

Bruce Ndlovu , Sunday Life Correspondent
INSTEAD of microphones shoved in his face and camera flashes blinding eyes as he fended off sharp questions from reporters, Tuku this week found himself fending off inquisitive questions from a twitter user who thought it was his duty to correct the superstar’s style of dressing.

According to that user and others, Mtukudzi had now adopted a dress sense not fitting someone his age.

In an instant, Tuku turned defence into attack, suggesting that although he could always change his dress sense, the same could not be said of the youngster’s manners which he was permanently stuck with.

In the much talked about picture, Tuku is seen decked out in a tight fitting navy blue outfit, a sling bag dangling on his hip and ankle high shoes to complete the look. Alongside him are two fans, whose dressing does not seem vastly different from the elder that they are embracing.

To some, Tuku was ill advised to adopt new fashion trends, as it showed a star a little too eager to keep up with trends.

Unknown to some of his critics, however, would have been the fact that this not the first time that the music icon adopted a fashion style that was regarded as trendy at the time.

In the 1970s, a young Tuku was seduced by the hippie wave of dressing that saw young African musicians strut their stuff in stages around Zimbabwe in robes borrowed from rock emperors in faraway London or New York.

“Tuku went through the hippie culture dressing on and off the hippie way and doing the English compositions that were fairly popular such as Stop After Orange (1975),” wrote the star’s former publicist Shepherd Mutamba in his tell all book, Tuku Backstage.

In fact, Tuku’s fascination extended beyond just his stage attire, as it extended to his lifestyle choices.

“Tuku, on the other hand, previously smoked and even appeared on some of his early album covers — Muroyi Ndiyani (1980)and Shanje (1981) posing with cigarettes because he believed that smoking was cool,” Mutamba wrote.

Despite his fascination with Western culture, Tuku never lost sight of his roots according to Mutamba.

“In as much as Tuku associated himself with the 1970s hippie era he still believed there was nothing as good as being original.

He found music expressing his emotion, circumstances and aspirations in a more enhanced way when performed in his mother tongue.”

Tuku’s change in appearance coincided with a period when he found his true calling as a musician. When he decided to speak the language of the mbira and the hosho, that is when he discovered a sense of style and fashion that was uniquely African.

Style became something that became important to the music superstar, with only the finest, Afro-centric threads tailored for his lanky frame by some of the country’s best designers.

“Tuku loved leather handmade shoes in different shades and designs. Although he picks up some high end street clothes, he preferred to wear on stage the custom-made African attire tailored by his regular designers in Harare. His favourite colours are white and black. His wardrobe is rich and he is always resplendently dressed,” Mutamba wrote.

From the finest threads and shoes that money can buy, Tuku crafted his image as a style conscious icon.

“Appearance is everything in showbiz and the superstar is conscious of his attire and rarely wears the same pair of shoes of outfit repeatedly. Tuku paid a lot attention to his footwear and would send me to take his pair of Shaun Paul shoes, just for a polish, to Ratanje, famous cobblers in Harare. He loved looking good even on a lazy day home.

In the modern era, Tuku has also tried to adapt accordingly.

As the high fashion and red carpet fever gripped Zimbabwe in earnest, many were surprised to see Tuku take to the ramp at the Zimbabwe Fashion Week in 2015.

With the establishment of his Hai-kobo shoe range and the teasing of a comprehensive clothing range, there seemed to have been a deliberate attempt to make sure that the latest trends did not bypass the superstar.

Lately the star’s favourite accessory has been a sling bag, an accessory that seems to barely leave his hip nowadays. Many first laid their eyes on it at the fashion week were Tuku again teased an Afro-centric look in line with current tastes and trends.

With a young vibrant team, led by Ngoma Nehosho’s Walter Wanyanya, Tuku is seemingly eager to keep his finger on the pulse of the latest trends. His recent activity on twitter may be indicative of this.

For some, Tuku’s dressing shows that his team is not willing to see him turn into the old man of the Zimbabwean music scene, something which his music has also defied.

According to Wanyanya however, the latest pictures are not indicative of an overall style shift by the star.

“He was just coming out of the hotel when he met some fans who wanted to take pictures. It was just something that he threw on at the hotel. Tuku dresses himself. Like everyone else he is human and he is not perfect,” he said.