African fashion is trending across the globe. With the rise of internationally acclaimed fashion houses such as Vivian Westwood and Burberry using African prints and textiles in their collections, what was once seen as traditionally African has now become global.
In West Africa they call it Ankara, in East Africa they call it Kanga, and in southern Africa they call it Chitenje. Designers across the continent have begun to diversify the use of these fabrics over the years to create their own unique styles. In Malawi, the small Northern Region town of Mzuzu has become a mecca for Malawian designers to gain the ‘chitenje experience’ without having to travel far. Following the Mzuzu Fashion Week in 2015, numerous designers now flock to the city in order to find affordable fabrics that are imported from across the continent. You can find Ankara wax materials from West Africa, kangas from East Africa, wax chitenjes from Zambia and many more.
Mzuzu Fashion Week (MzFW) was established by Kwanza PR and Zik Garvey Investments (ZJMN) in 2015 after a variety of fashion events had taken place within the ‘Green City of Mzuzu’.
The MzFW has created a platform for native and national designers to showcase their work and encourage the growth of the textile industry in Malawi. This annual event aims to contribute to the growth of Malawi’s economy by creating jobs for those in the creative sector and by opening up opportunities for textile and apparel exports.
The fashion and beauty business in Africa is growing and Malawi needs to grow with it. Worldwide fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry and fashion events are great contributors to the economy in terms of tourism, hospitality and trade. Consumers are always looking for entertaining experiences within Africa and at MzFW you will get the best of both worlds – experiencing northern Malawi at its best while having the chance to see world-class fashion.
The inaugural four-day Mzuzu Fashion Week (MzFW) 2015 showcased over 200 designs on the runway and brought together a range of consumers, artisans and media professionals from across the country.
With an astounding response to the 2015 event, MzFW 2016 already looks to be more glamorous than before, attracting even more artisans, buyers and media houses. The first two days of this year’s Fashion Week will include creative business seminars, which will cover all the aspects of creative businesses within Africa (music, art, photography, film and fashion), accompanied by showcases from up-and-coming designers.
The Cocktail Show will feature designers presenting their ready-to-wear collections which will be available in early 2017, headlining with Creative Base’s exclusive collection which he has been working on in South Africa.
The Dinner Gala Show will feature designers’ Bespoke and Couture Collection, and will be introducing Alinafe’s latest collection.
The finale of the Mzuzu Fashion Week will be the Community Day Show, involving local designers, charities and different organisations supporting Sustainable Development Goals through fashion.
In the spotlight
Designer: Tawile Kumsinda
Tawile is a 15-year-old fashion designer who lives in Blantyre and a year 10 student at Saint Andrew’s International High School.
“I was attracted to fashion designing because it allows me to express my feelings through the pieces I design. Fashion is an art – and I aim to make my designs the embodiment of my beliefs and worries about society today,” says Tawile.
In 2015 Tawile won Fashion Malawi Edition’s Up & Coming Designer of the Year and has since showcased at Mzuzu Fashion Week, Lake of Stars, Tshwane Fashion Festival in Pretoria, South Africa, and A Night of Fashion and Glam.
Designer: Christopher Ngalu
Label: Creative Base
Creative Base is a modern, unisex African clothing line catering for easy everyday wear. The company gets some of its inspiration from African pop culture, places, drawings, paintings, graphic designs and music. The main influence behind the clothing line is ancient African art – mainly the Ndebele house art from Zimbabwe and South Africa. Christopher wanted clothes that showed his African identity but at the same time looked trendy and original. This unique sense of style seemed very hard to find so he decided to start making his own clothes, which led to the birth of The Base in 2013. People began to notice his unique style and loved the clothes they saw. Gradually the trend set by Christopher became a business, and Creative Base was established.
The brand is still growing and the power of its rapid growth is in the originality behind the line. Currently working from South Africa, The Base is making a name for itself there. Creative Base celebrates African culture, heritage and history through fashion. The Base shows the side of Africa which isn’t normally seen in mainstream media, with its motto being ‘It is Actually Cool to Be African. So let’s embrace it’.
Designer Kondwani Phiri
Label: Sozo Wear
Kondwani, of Sozo Wear, is a 30-year-old designer living in Mzuzu. He has been creative ever since he was a child. Before joining the world of fashion he was a copywriter, until he found himself falling in love with fashion design in 2014. Without any professional training, Kondwani taught himself by watching online tutorials and reading design concepts, before establishing his label Sozo Wear. His inspiration comes from the mentorship he received from the internationally renowned Malawian Designer Lilly Alfonso. He has showcased at the exclusive Mzuzu Fashion Week and FAME’s Distinguished Gentlemen and Fashion Life Tour. He is exploring ways of making Sozo a household name locally and internationally.
Designer: Alinafe Naphu Misomali
Alinafe is an award-winning, creative and dynamic fashion designer with extensive experience in women’s clothing design. Growing up in Accra, Ghana, Alinafe attended the Creative Design College and obtained a Certificate in Fashion and Design. Her label gained momentum after winning the Vlisco Fashion Fund Award in 2014, which gave her the opportunity to study fashion and design further in The Netherlands.
Alinafe has showcased her designs at a number of fashion events and has had the opportunity to dress several Nollywood actresses, including Marie Humbert. On Alinafe’s return to Malawi earlier this year, she had the honour of showcasing her label Alinafe for the first time at A Night of Fashion and Glam in June. She will present her next collection exclusively at the Mzuzu Fashion Week in October.