Cecilia Bamusi’s love for fashion started at a young age. She had a passion for sewing since she was a little girl.
“Ever since I was young, I have always wanted to get into fashion. However, my parents wouldn’t let me study it, so I took it up as a hobby at first,” she says.
Cecilia is the third born in a family of four children and is based in Blantyre.
She started teaching herself how to sew by watching YouTube videos and practicing.
From there, she would make little swimsuits by hand and post them on Facebook and her WhatsApp status.
A lot of her friends encouraged her and reposted her work on their social media platforms as well, which started getting her noticed and helped her land her first job.
Says Cecilia: “I finally got noticed in 2017 and I got a job offer to work as a designer and shop assistant at Adam’s Needle in Lilongwe.”
She adds that her first job helped her learn critical skills as well as gain the necessary experience.
She learnt a lot about the fashion and business field which she still carries today.
At 23, Cecilia has moulded herself into a household name with her unique designs.
The young tailor won the Best New Fashion Designer Award at the Malawi 2020 Urban Music People Awards which were held in Lilongwe.
“I never expected to win and when I did, I was extremely happy. It felt good to know that people recognised me and my designs; and also knowing that people took their time to vote for me. I was humbled and honoured,” she says.
After working at Adam’s Needle for four years, Cecilia finally decided to branch off on her own and founded her own fashion label, Ciar Designs.
The label specialises in making female clothing and accessories.
She also opened her own shop in Machinjiri Township and later moved it to Kanjedza Township.
Since opening her shop, Ciar Designs has experienced consistent growth and popularity around Malawi.
She adds: “Opening my own shop was significant for me because I could finally work on my own terms. Being able to design and sew with creative freedom is so empowering. I am growing my brand and making a name for myself.”
When it comes to her designs, Cecilia’s aim is to make unique, eye-catching designs.
She wants to stand out and produce work outside the box by challenging herself.
Her motivation behind her work and success is the desire to exceed in the fashion industry.
“I am constantly inspired by wanting to be the best version of myself. I always want to produce good quality clothing because maintaining a good brand is important to me. So, I make sure that everything I put out not only looks good, but is in excellent condition,” she says.
What is particularly special about Cecilia and her brand is that she works hand in hand with her clients.
The designer explains: “Most clients come to me with an idea of what they want, whereas some do not. So for those that do not, we go through the sketching process together, to give them a perfect picture of what I can potentially do for them. For those that already come with designs, we work together to personalise the designs specifically for them. After 10-14 days, their clothes are ready for collection.”
However, running her own business and being a tailor has not always been easy for the young entrepreneur.
She confesses that despite the fun and joy that come with owning a business, it can also be stressful.
She is constantly trying to figure out ways to make her brand bigger which can be quiet challenging in a developing country such as Malawi, where the fashion industry is only just taking off.
Small businesses also meet various challenges such as limited access to loans as well as the lack of financial literacy to keep the business running successfully.
Despite meeting some challenges, Cecilia never gave up on her dream and worked even harder to ensure her brand did not flop.
She explains: “During my green days, there were times I would not even get any customers. As discouraging as this was, I never gave up because I knew this a struggle many new businesses face. I just had to keep on pushing.
“I became smarter with marketing, advertising my business and showcasing my talent. With time and persistence, I find myself where I am today, an award winning fashion designer and tailor. I never thought I would be here today.”
Before fully committing to the fashion industry, Cecilia studied accounting at the Malawi College of Accountancy and has a certificate in financial accounting.
“Gaining the accounting qualification has helped me, especially in running my business. Without this knowledge, I would have probably struggled in that department,” she says.
Through a combination of her skills and critical experience she has gained, Cecilia’s greatest achievement is founding and running her fashion brand, Ciar Designs which she has been doing for the past three years.
“Running a business is not easy. So, the fact that I have been able to do this for a while now, especially with the success I have achieved, is big to me. I have opened a shop, I fend for myself and provide a service to people through my talent. And I am grateful for all that,” says the designer.
As her brand grows, Cecilia’s aspirations and goals grow as well, with her main goal being to eventually start selling her clothing internationally.
“I want to continuously grow my brand. I want to be able to trade across borders and sell my clothing internationally. One day, I would love to be remembered as the girl that made a difference in the fashion sector in Malawi,” she says.
To aspiring tailors, Cecilia’s advice is: “Never let people tell you there are enough people in the industry. Yes, this business is tough, just like any other business, but don’t let that discourage you and let your passion for the art encourage you to keep pushing and keep on going.”
Her advice to young girls is to follow their dreams, because nothing is too impossible to achieve.
She adds: “On top of pursuing your dreams, go to school, because the skills and tools you learn in school will carry you and help you for the rest of your life. Lastly, always remember to pray and work hard in everything that you do.”
In her free time, Cecilia loves to design and perfect her tailoring skills.