Designer Profile – The Prodigal Daughter


If you love colour, pattern and flair in your wardrobe then The Prodigal Daughter is a brand you need to know about. The designs from former human rights lawyer Phoebe Mwanza are exactly the vibrant ray of sunshine to wake you up from the chill of winter; and it was on one of those cold blustery days that I sat down with the lady herself to talk about her brand.

Born in Zambia, and growing up in Zimbabwe, Phoebe was always drawing and making things as a child. She found that she was often dressed a little differently (and better) to the other kids and loved being a little stylist who made boring clothes look cool. Fast forward a few years and her label has launched four collections, lighting up catwalks in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Byron Bay, New York, Paris and London.

After studying law in Perth, Phoebe moved to Sydney then down to Canberra where her fashion journey began. Kicking off with some studies at the Canberra Institute of Technology, she learnt about sewing, pattern, fabric, ethics and sustainability which helped give her a different perspective on fashion. With a bold, colourful style her designs will appeal to creative and conscious shoppers alike ― this is a brand that provides both flamboyant staples and statement pieces that your wardrobe will love.

When asked what inspires her designs Phoebe has a variety of sources and her latest collection Nubian really aims to showcase the culture and stories of Africa that haven’t been told well before. The Nubian collection ― which debuted at New York fashion week before heading to London and Paris earlier this year ― tells the wearer a bit about Africa in a fun way, to share a sometimes unseen side of the culture.



Aside from these cultural influences The Prodigal Daughter has a philanthropic side that we don’t hear about in the advertising. One of the goals of Phoebe’s brand is to create jobs in Africa, and to fund the education of workers so that they can take their new skills out in to the community. Choosing to manufacture her clothes closer to home was important to Phoebe as a way to give back ― and is a valuable factor to anyone looking at the social impacts of their shopping.

Designing each piece from her base in Melbourne, Phoebe works with her manager and tailors by sharing photos, and meeting over skype to talk about fabric and other technical details. Around 90% of her operations are based in Kenya and Nairobi with a little in Ghana. While she lives and works in Australia Phoebe does manage to get back every few years and visit her team onsite as often as she can.

With experiences from home and so many of Australia’s cities as she develops her label, Phoebe has found a wide variety of attitudes and influences of fashion. Moving from Canberra to Melbourne a few years back has forged further creative connections, meeting like minded people and plenty of photographers along the way. Working with various festivals has also been educational, needing to handle different aspects of the show depending on their approach. FashFest in Canberra was a good launching pad in 2015 and came with the extra piece in the post festival market (which has since been discontinued), while the Dress Collective runway that was part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival was far less hands on. For the former designers worked out hair, make up and all aspects of the show, compared to other festivals which just required you to rock up with your clothes.



The Prodigal Daughter’s designs almost always conjure glowing compliments (speaking from personal experience), and they are quite reasonably priced. If you want to snap up a piece for your own you can find the label online here , or at US online retailer Zuvaa.

Johanna Dziadkiewicz

Johanna Dziadkiewicz

Finance professional by day, fashion illustrator by night, Johanna spends most of her sparetime drawing- whether sitting on the couch at home or a peak hour train. Being addicted to all things pattern & colour, Johanna has no problem standing out against the grey Melbourne weather. Follow her on Instagram @johannadziadkiewicz

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