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Young people contributing to Malawi’s fashion industry

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Besides all that political drama, cash/maize-gate trauma, the least we can do is begin to agree on one important fact; if my brand-new purse or wallet is colorfully stained with a print of Calvin Klein, Donatella Versace, Giorgio Armani, Kate Spade or Dolce & Gabbana, I am definitely heading somewhere with my fashion sense.

model showcasing Christian Entwan designs on runway model showcasing Christian Entwan designs on runway

Bear with me, these designs matter everywhere hence somewhat owning the global iconic crown. But where does our African print fall in all of this? Right here, as the fashionista cast under the spell of mikanda (beads) and chilundu (Ankara) and I sip from one glass.

With 22 year old Terrence Thobani Ngulube, it all started with a keen eye for his mother’s work, the woman who dressed her family in her hand-made garments spreading her routes to her son who was inspired to walk down a similar path as his mother. Ngulube, is your regular guy owning a keen eye for fashion with an enthusiastic mind that overlooks his regularity.

The young designer whose fashion icon is Robert Cavalli does not hesitate to share with us the bits and patches of his up and coming brand, Terry Made Designs (TMD) which was established in the year 2014.

“I started the brand TMD in 2014 and it has been growing stronger ever since. TMD was privileged enough to showcase at the very first and only street fashion show WAFE (Winter Ankara Fashion Expo) and other shows like HAEZ (Have and Enjoy Zoe) at Chancellor College, Catholic University and Hello December 2015, just to mention a few,” he said.

But what is fashion if not a dab of uniqueness and an exceptional touch or sense of style that moves people a little out of their comfort zone and routined attitudes? To young designer Ngulube, this is exactly how he chooses to define the fashion world today.

Driven by the need to alter the mindset of many Malawians in the way they have perceived fashion, he believes the fashion industry is growing by the minute which portrays that something is being done right. Ngulube, concludes that “the sky is no longer the limit so I really see myself going the extra mile.”

However, if you don’t get too drunk on what has been poured into these fancy fashion glasses and focus more on who is pouring, here is something you and I will notice; the fashion industry in this age, more surprisingly in this country, has attached itself to the young dreamers that seek to speak through art and design. Not only have the young people become clients and followers of the fashion industry, they have also interestingly emerged as the authors and creators of the designs that keep fashion trends in this country up-to-date.

Apart from Terrence Ngulube, 22 year old Lilongwe based Debbie Chirwa is another young designer who has chosen to do something tangible with her fashion sense and charisma.

Chirwa who discovered her passion for fashion at a tender age says her designs have been inspired by the Malawian/African urban culture, in which she has found that most people are slowly learning to express themselves through fashion.

“I feel like most people have started expressing themselves through fashion and embracing their cultures. Our designs are aimed at being a lifestyle for the people hence the urban and street looks,” said Chirwa.

With Virgil Abloh as her fashion icon, the young female designer found herself collaborating with her sibling 23 year old Tj David Chirwa who is also driven by a sense of fashion; together they seek to express themselves through their work. Their brand, HomeGrown Lifestyle, was established in the year 2013, where they make clothes and other accessories.

Chirwa sees the fashion industry growing and flourishing, in which she personally hopes to grow through her designs and hopes more people learn to embrace fashion in Malawi. “The fashion industry in this country is indeed starting to flourish, I see a lot of potential in the designs and the passion rooted in all of this simply guarantees the fact that the future has amazing things to offer,” she added.

Inspired by his inner instinct, Christian Entwan Ndovi is a 23 year old Malawian designer who seeks to influence the fashion industry in one way or another through his designs.

“This country is far behind in the global fashion industry; hence my designs seek to open the eyes of many Malawians as to what is trending beyond the walls of this country. I would like to change the attitude of Malawians who have chosen to remain glued to the same old fashion culture which has limited exposure. Fashion is just in all honesty, all about what is new, so whether you blend in the old designs with something unusual or unexpected, people have to notice that styles are evolving and not staying the same. This is what makes fashion exciting,” explained Ndovi.

In a country like Malawi, where opportunities are highly limited, Ndovi believes everyone can be the authors of their own opportunities. He reveals that being Malawian should never be an excuse for limitations or primitive mindset, “I have not limited my designs to the African print simply because I am a Malawian designer, I add a little odd to the usual and always make sure people see something new every time,” he said.

Concurring to this, Mercy Bambi, a university student says she finds what young people are doing today with their designs quite intriguing. “It is amazing how much young people have developed a unique fashion sense and are able to express it all through their hand-made designs. I think if we continue like this, Malawi will be a better place and we will definitely earn some recognition internationally.”

In a world where young people are usually forgotten, undermined and excluded from development activities, some have chosen to find their voice through art and design, they speak loudly through fashion.

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