When fashion makes football sense

25 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
When fashion makes football sense Leon Mwale

The Sunday News

Nkosilathi Sibanda, Sunday Leisure Reporter

ON any given Sunday morning, Joel Chibaya first attends a service at the Roman Catholic Church St Mary’s branch in Hwange.

Clad in his simple casual yet respectable wear, he does his Christian rituals and later on, after the parish priest is done preaching, he awaits another event, a football match where his favorite team Hwange is playing in the afternoon.

Chibaya does not need to return home to change his attire. Upon leaving the church, he simply contacts Leon Mwale, a sports fashion entrepreneur in the coal mining town. Mwale is the go to man for  anything sports apparel in Hwange these days. 

He is the owner of Lefae Genius Outfit, a business that is solely based on sports fashion and other consignment related to sport.

For Chibaya and many of his kind who are fanatics of the game, the Lefae brand is a symbol of identity in Hwange. There is a feeling that he cannot describe when he puts on a yellow shirt and a black cap stitched with the brand and the colours of the Hwange football team.

Chibaya is well assured of a Sunday well spent in spirituality, football and style. His satisfaction is to keep Mwale and his sport fashion brand going. In a meet up with Sunday Leisure, Mwale revealed that his business is going well and the vision of expanding to other areas is still alive. This is one businessman who found a niche that many overlooked. 

He launched his start up a few years back inspired by the top billing fashion industry. He admits, the t-shirts, hats and other sport apparel he has been selling, have really kept him well, with a promise of bread and butter on the table.

He cannot complain, for he has all the gratitude that the gods have smiled on his hustle. 

Being the son to Weekely Mwale, the famed former Hwange Football Club great, Leon also had a stint on the field as he too, was a goalie for the same team. He was a football coach at Makomo, a team that once plied its trade in the Zifa Southern Region Division One League. So, the love of the game never faded.

He merged his passion for fashion and football and that made up for a good business venture. 

The Lefae Genius Outfit was established in Hwange in 2018, with a specialty on casual, sports and formal wear. Mwale started off working with Godwin Ndlovu, Blaqstone, Willie Gates, Koshen Sibanda, and Jay Bling.  He told Zimpapers Sports Hub that he is still in the game.

“I am still in the business. The vision is to grow the brand and also keep abreast of the latest trends so we go with the market flow. Ever since we started, ours was to bring football to the people and the best way to do that was through fashion. Everyone wants to be associated with a team they support. We got off to a good start here in Hwange and I must say that home has been so good. The communities of Hwange have been the backbone of our existence. When we first hit the newspaper headlines and got all the interviews, we didn’t think that years down the line Lefae Outfit would be this big. We are what we are because of the people who love sport,” said Mwale.

The brand has reached the United Kingdom and other communities in the Diaspora. “I would like to thank Zimbabweans abroad who saw our brand and continue to buy out stuff. It is amazing how they appreciate our products. The overseas market pushed us to be visible online and we did that. We are in the digital era and as a brand we just have to be online every time. That is where people are and that is where there is money.”

The Lefae Genius Outfit has brought a celebrity shine on its display. Player endorsements have been made with one of the most glorified Hwange legends, Method Mwanjali. Mwanjali is former Warriors player, a household name in the coal mining town. He also played for Premiership side CAPS United.

Other notable names in football that are official ambassadors of Lefae Genius Outfit include footballers Obert Moyo, Dominic Chungwa, cyclist Siza Chuma and goalie Collen Dida Phiri. Of these, Mwanjali was the face of the brand for a long time. A visit to Hwange, one is bound to meet the legend donning Lefae label either a cap, T-shirt or hoodie.

 “If Mwanjali wears it, everyone has to. This is a Hwange brand,” said Mwale.

Other than football, Mwale said he will soon venture into elite sport wear in support of his other passions of swimming and golf.  Last year he landed a deal to brand bucket hats with the Hwange Football Club logo, in what has got as many of the team’s supporters buying the merchandise. It now makes sense. There is money in football, we just have to tap it. Business is growing and people are supportive. I started small. Now I work daily and I am proud to say I am earning a living from this hustle.”

He said over the years, his label has also been supporting Hwange musicians. “This is popular culture and as a brand we cannot escape the fact that we in that culture as well. We have been into music, making videos for upcoming musicians. In the future, we are the brand to watch and follow,” he said.

Mwale has won awards, a testimony that his business is being noticed and appreciated. In 2023 he was given the Influential and Ecosystem Builders Award by Youth Network Connect.

-@NkosieLegend

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