“Once is a good start but never enough.”

Antonia Möltgen is 25 and lives between Cologne and Vienna. An aspiring textile and fashion designer, she spent three weeks on a Team works! assignment at ZimTrade in the Zimbabwean cities of Harare and Bulawayo. In our interview, she tells us all about her time there.

The interview

Hi Antonia! Can you start by telling us what organisation you volunteered with and what your main tasks were?

I was lucky enough to spend three weeks working for ZimTrade in Harare and Bulawayo. ZimTrade promotes exports of Zimbabwean products and helps businesses produce goods for the international market. As part of this work, the organisation is looking to set up a fashion school In Harare. The idea is to implement a curriculum based on international standards with the aim of establishing a strong fashion industry. Our task was to write the curriculum in collaboration with a Zimbabwean designer, view suitable locations for the school and visit local fashion companies.

What did you learn during your assignment and were you able to share any knowledge yourself?

Where to begin? Well, I learned a great deal. For instance, that clothing, style and quality have to meet different requirements in different places and that market and customer analyses can benefit business performance. But also that everyone has their own way of working and their own work schedule. Generally speaking, I got a good idea of how the clothing industry in Zimbabwe and mass production work. But the most important thing I learned was that you have to treat people well if you want a productive workplace.

In terms of sharing my knowledge, I was able to explain how important it is to know about textiles and processes in fashion design. And also that a brand needs its own unique design concept to be successful.

These types of intensive, new experiences influence the way we think and how we see the world. And travelling as a non-tourist opens completely new doors.

What surprised you most?

I didn’t really have any expectations before I left for Zimbabwe. But it did surprise me that almost everyone has the same pop culture references due to social media and the internet. There are lots of differences but American pop culture is very much present in Harare and Bulawayo.

Were there any advantages to going to Zimbabwe with your tandem partner and senior expert, Chris de Vijt?

Definitely! Having already been to Zimbabwe many times, Chris is very familiar with the place. She knows the people and what life is like in “Zim”. And you can see she really loves the country. She completely infected me with her excitement and joy. But I learned a lot from her professionally too - things about fashion, the clothing industry and her work as an SES expert.

What would be your advice for other young people interested in an assignment abroad?

Just go for it, be open-minded but without losing your own voice. These types of intensive, new experiences influence the way we think and how we see the world. And travelling as a non-tourist opens completely new doors. And once is a good start but never enough.

Join Team works!

Would you like to join Team works! and do an assignment in an African company and gain similar experience? Then register today using our form. Just enter your data, send it, done!

Click here for the registration form