Alinafe Misomali is a 30-year-old fashion designer who was born and raised in Blantyre. She went to primary and secondary schools in the commercial city before her parents enrolled her for a course in food nutrition and livelihood security at then Natural Resources College (NRC) in Lilongwe from where she graduated with a diploma in 2010.
“I got a job after graduation, but it was not really something I wanted or liked to do. I was living my parents’ dream and my heart was elsewhere. My heart was in designing. I have had an interest in designing from the time I was younger. When I was about 12, I organised my first fashion show with a few of my friends at our church hall. We used the proceeds to buy sugar and soap which we donated to a hospital,” she recalls.
She recalls making some sketches whenever she got the chance. With time, she got to a point where she could not take it anymore.
Misomali decided to quit her job knowing quite well that her parents would be against it.
“So, I secretly quit my job and enrolled with a tailoring school in town. I would leave home every morning as if I was going to work when in fact I was going to school until one day I met my mother in town, with my small sewing machine in my bag. That was when I broke the news down to her. The problem was breaking the news to my father,” she says.
When the news finally reached him, the parents decided to send her to a fashion and design school in Ghana. She studied at Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design between 2011 and 2014.
As she was getting ready to return home after graduation, she saw an advert on a billboard about a Vlisco competition for up-and-coming designers.
“Vlisco is huge in Ghana. And when I saw the advert, I went for it. It was a good move because at the end of it, I was in the top three. Part of the prize was a trip to the Netherlands for a course in fashion and design. I studied at Meester Couper Fashion School in Amsterdam for an intensive master’s course and graduated in 2014,” she explains.
The prize also included a three-year contract with the Vlisco Group- designers, producers and distributors of fashion fabrics for the West and Central African market as well as African consumers in global metropolitan cities.
With that contract, she was required to stay in Accra, Ghana so that Vlisco could see her grow by providing her with invaluable business advice and help her bring her dream to life. So, she came up with designs for Vlisco fashion shows. Glitz Africa Fashion Week is one of the platforms where she showcased through Vlisco
Apart from that, Vlisco also assigned a few Ghanaian celebrities that she had to design outfits for.
“I made a lot of clothes for Gena West, a television show host, Ireen Logan, a musician and an actress Marie Humbert, among others. Vlisco created awareness campaigns for me. I was nominated for fashion and designer awards three times as emerging designer of the year 2015. One time by Ghana Fashion Awards, Glitz Style Awards and later by Fashion Icon Awards,” she says.
Misomali adds that although she did not win any of those awards, she was proud to have been recognised for her designs in a foreign country.
She came home in May 2016 and is working to build her name in the country.
“I do not aim at having a high end retail shop around town. I am not into ready-to-wear clothes. What I am doing is tailor making outfits whenever clients require them. I am able to look at something and make out how I can execute it. I do everything myself, from making patterns to tailoring,” she says.
Misomali adds that her designs are unique in that she puts a lot of handwork in them; from adding appliqués, beading and other details such as sequins into her work which separates it from the designs of others.
She has showcased in the Netherlands, South Africa, Ghana and even locally, but points out that it is very difficult to get materials in the country.
The designer says this is one of the things limiting outcomes of her work as it gives her too few options to work with.
Having worked with Vlisco for so long, Misomali has more experience with Chitenje wear.
Regardless of that, she says she likes to experiment with other fabrics for bridal wear, evening dress and other coutoure.
She plans to grow the brand in the country and make a name for herself although she admits it may prove difficult as she has to balance between making money and collecting what to showcase at international fashion platforms.
The young woman confesses she has received overwhelming response on the market, although she discloses that it is difficult to meet deadlines with all the electricity problems facing the country.
She still dreams of the day she will showcase her work in other international fashion platforms such as Mercedez Benz Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, Africa Fashion Week London and New York Fashion Week. n