Saturday, 16 July 2016

MADE IN JAMAICA: Africa-inspired Zene products get to the root of the matter

ALL NATURAL: Brown's Zene line champions female empowerment and self-worth.

Every year, the final-year Visual Arts students at the Edna Manley College put on a blockbuster exhibition that draws people from all walks to view their imaginative creations in a range of mediums and disciplines spanning sculpture, paintings, prints, textiles and entrepreneurial initiatives.

Danielle Brown, a graphics art major, decided to tackle ‘the root of the matter’ by launching Zene, a line of local-made, all-natural hair and skin-care products that dually celebrate our African heritage and modern Jamaican womanhood. “I decided to do the products because of my love for my African ancestry,” she tells TALLAWAH, calling by telephone. “It’s mostly an expression of young modern Black womanhood. And it’s a female brand, a female line that caters to natural hair ladies, so we are encouraging you to empower yourself and embrace your identity.”

The Zene line (from a Swahili word meaning ‘beautiful’) includes curling pudding, daily moisturizing cream, shampoo and conditioner, and the all-important edge tamer, presented in bottles adorned with eye-popping African patterns given a modern hyperchromatic update. More good news: no additives, no preservatives.

“There is a major trend nowadays with natural hairstyles, so we are right in line with that,” explains Brown, 21, who admittedly struggled with identity and self-acceptance issues in her younger days. “Growing up, it was hard to identify with other women and some of the products that were available to me. So I decided to create something other than what is available.”

What started out as a final-year college project is now a promising business adventure that Danielle Brown is determined to explore to the fullest. “Everybody is asking for it to be in the stores,” she says of the response to the year-old line of products. “It’s gonna be available in the stores, but for now we’re keeping it exclusive and done to order. People also want their own customized products.”

For Brown, based in the Long Mountain section of St. Andrew, where family members help with the creative process, customer feedback has been invaluable. She’s not giving up the dream of doing graphic design as the career of choice, but creating the Zene line has made her an accidental businesswoman with an additional source of income, and she is keenly interested in the future possibilities. “The long-term plan is to get the products in the stores and to get natural-hair salons to use it in people’s hair. We are about embracing your African roots and promoting natural beauty and healthier lifestyles.”

> Follow Brown on Instagram @zenelifestyle or email for more information.

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