FASHION designing is considered among the world’s most demanding art forms involving movement, design and architecture.

Local fashion fashionista, Designer Jay-Tee has become a household name due to his midas touch that brings magic on different types of fabrics.

Born John Tendai Mazhinye, the self-taught designer is popular in the fashion industry for designing outfits for such celebrities as dancehall president Winky D, Jah Prayzah, Enzo Ishall and Shashl, among others.

Designer Jay-Tee credits his success to past unpleasant treatment by his stepmother. It was a blessing in disguise because the trials and tribulations inspired him to great heights.

NewsDay Weekender caught up with Designer Jay-Tee who opened up on his life and the experiences he encountered along his fashion and fabrics journey.

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Braving stepmother’s ill-treatment

Most of my life I stayed with my father and stepmother after my mother passed away when I was in grade seven.

I have very beautiful childhood memories of my mother. She was a tailor. I think that is where I inherited the fashion designing trait.

I had one of the toughest stepmothers. It was different from a biological mother’s love.

Even though the experiences were unpleasant, I attribute my success to my stepmother because she pushed me to become what I am today.

There were times I was not sure whether I would eat or not. I lived without any expectations because there appeared to be nothing for me.

I used to be very playful at school, but the situation at home with my stepmother gave me a wake-up call. I started working extra hard with zeal to change my life.

I lived in pretense and buried my emotions inside so that my father would never notice I was not okay.

The situation drove me to find a job instead of pursuing further studies, although my advanced level results were excellent.

I did commercials and managed 13 points. My father wanted me to become a chartered accountant.

However, I needed to move out of the house as soon as possible to be independent and build my own life from scratch.

I started by working for Astro Mobile for almost two and half years. During that period, I was also doing music as General Jay-Tee, while financing a clothing line.

I have found my way now and I can look back, and I am grateful for that experience.

Maybe if I was comfortable and had everything catered for, I would not have made it here. My father then passed away in 2021.

Other talents

I am good at visual art, which has helped me to draw my designs on paper.

I did not pursue any fashion designing studies, but I learnt by watching others and I mastered the skill by memorising what I saw and even taught myself through experience.

I am also good at rapping (hip-hop music), but I chose not to do music. I have my favourite songs which I listen to sometimes.

I did a song with urban groover ExQ and Adrian Tate called Game Changer which many people might not be aware of.

The song managed to receive some airplay. Although I dropped music to do other things, I still love listening to music because it makes me concentrate and focus on one thing.

Fashion taste

I do wear designer clothes here and there with my wife and kids, but not very often. I am not into matching outfits, but I have made some with my wife.

I only wear Jordan sneakers; I no longer wear any other shoes. I also influenced my wife into loving sneakers.

I do not like wearing what everyone else has. I go for extraordinary sneakers; in fact, limited editions. I want to make a fashion statement every time I go out.

Cultural beliefs

My parents were deeply rooted in our culture and they are a backbone of what I believe as far as culture is concerned.

They taught me that elders should be respected; such as not to greet people with my left hand and that talking to elders while standing is disrespectful. Times have changed, but I still hold on to those beliefs.

First encounter with Winky D

I was thrilled and froze when I saw Winky D during the first period of COVID-19.

Layan, Winky D’s brother, called me to his house and asked me if I could do some outfits they wanted for the Garamumba show, the shows which were happening during the COVID-19 induced lockdown.

I thought the outfits were only for the band members and the Gaffa had something to wear.

Winky D was later called in for measurements and when he greeted me, I stammered a bit. He was calm and chilled.

Even though shops were closed and I had no idea where I was going to find the fabric for his outfit because only essential services shops were open, I simply told myself that I would make the outfits.

I could not miss the opportunity to design for Winky D. I was going to turn every stone to make the outfits. I designed the Money Heist outfit that made a statement.

My name was recognised from that day as people started addressing me as Winky D’s designer.

Many news agencies reached out for interviews. Winky D was my stepping stone, he is a big brand and a fashion icon.


I have a lot of dreams for the future. I want to own a big factory where I will be manufacturing my designs and shops that will be distributing those designs, both locally and internationally.

I am making sure that I get to the standards that the international market prefers so that I can compete in the world market.

I dream of becoming a fashion icon and venture into other businesses such as real estate and other properties of significance value and uniqueness.

It is work in progress, but the pace is very slow given the economic situation of the country.

I also desire to create employment for young people. Later on, in the future when I feel like I should retire, I want to start a fashion designing school for people who have a passion for fashion.

I want to share my knowledge with other people to make outstanding fashion designers for the future.

Word to young people

I have not yet succeeded, but I believe I can tell other people that it starts with you.

Being positive and believing in oneself can take a person to places. Failures are a test of faith whether one will keep on believing or doubt themselves.

Failures are a way of figuring out what works and what does not. Focus is also important when a lot of things come your way as distractions. A normal person must have goals because they guide us.