A cross the globe, fashion shows are a platform where designers showcase their creations; they are not just limited to upcoming line of clothing.
Such events have launched the inspiring careers of some of the celebrated fashion designers in the world’s fashion capitals; New York, Barcelona, Paris and Africa’s trend hubs of Johannesburg, Accra and Nairobi.
Over the past few years, Malawi has witnessed the mushrooming of fashion shows. From Malawi Fashion Week, Fashion Edition Malawi (Fame) to Mzuzu Fashion Week (MzFW).
But have they borne any fruits, has the country been able to define a sense of national dress or promote a fashion culture?
MzFW believes that through its inaugural show, it has achieved a lot, such as giving designers what they deserve.
“We have given all designers national and international exposure which they needed. Two designers who participated in the MzFW attended the Tshwane Fashion Festival and one more is going to an international fashion festival in the next few months.
“In terms of sustainability of the event as an ongoing business it is difficult, because we don’t get enough support from local companies. But that is not stopping MzFW from pressing forward in 2016,” said Wezi Mzumara, one of the founders of the fashion week.
As for defining the national dress, the aficionado says: “no, but fashion culture is growing at a steady rate.”
For fashion designer Alinafe Naphu Misomali, local fashion related festivals have borne fruits, but bemoans the death of some festivals.
“I do not think international designers would be interested to showcase at any of our events because they come and disappear. We need to learn from international platforms like New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week where consistency is what has brought them to where they are today,” she explained.
Misomali credits Fame and MzFW for having unearthed raw, but promising talent which represents the future of the industry.
On defining a sense of national dress, the designer is of the view that it is a process which will not get into full swing any time soon.
“The recent Buy Malawi campaign is a huge step forward. Now it’s for people to change their mindsets. They must all think that you can look equally fashionable in Malawi made products. We need events with a strict dress code say a women’s night where all women should dress Chilundu,” she suggests.
To change the situation, there is need for concerted efforts, according to Misomali.
“The media should come up with more programmes on radio and TV that speak about Malawi fashion industry,” she said.
Malawi’s celebrated fashion designer, Lilly Alfonso says Malawi needs more of these festivals as they have a lot to offer.
“The yield hasn’t been as expected but there has been a breakthrough. More designers are emerging, more festivals are happening and the interest in people is growing. Some festivals only happened once and some are disappearing slowly. This is discouraging and a setback to the fashion industry,” she said.
However, Alfonso argues Malawi does not have what can be described as a national dress.
“We haven’t seen what we can exactly call a national dress that reflects Malawian Culture. Most of the designs showcased or made stem from western cultures or other African countries. We haven’t seen any efforts towards coming up with our own national signatures, that defines Malawian heritage,” noted Alfonso.n
We just do what we think sounds good
The Very Best, a Malawian/Swedish pop duo, will this month perform at the Glastonbury Festival in the UK, which is one of the biggest music festivals in the world. The Very Best is a collaboration between London-based Swedish DJ/producer Johan Hugo and Esau Mwamwaya, a singer from Lilongwe. Their music has been described as an Afro-Western mix of dance, hip-hop, pop, and the traditional music of Malawi. The group performs at the Glastonbury Festival on June 25, which is a five-day festival of contemporary performing arts that takes place near Pilton, Somerset in the UK. CHILL talks to Johan Hugo about the upcoming performance, and much more.