MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s upcoming fashion designer, and winner of Fashion Malawi Edition (Fame) 2010 Lily Alfonso creator of Lilies Designs talks to PAIDA MPASO on her designing career, her ambitions in life and her upcoming participation in an exhibition in Greece.
First of all, I have never had any formal training in fashion and for Fame to actually recognise me, I felt greatly honoured and that was the beginning of my career. I will forever be grateful. I had problems trying to recognise myself as a designer because I had never been to school.
With the exposure I am getting, I know I will come up with even better designs and yes I will contest.
Yes, indeed, I was in Milan in July where I attended a summer course. It was an eye-opening course and truly I have learnt and understood what fashion is all about. You know Italy is where fashion comes from and to be in that place was really a dream come true. As a designer, I got to learn how to mix fabrics with the right amount of colour. I have learnt the different kinds of fabrics, what they do and who fits better in them. Secondly, I have learnt how to come up with good fashion sketches. It is from sketches where we are able to come up with good designs. A good sketch spells a good design.
Furthermore, I got a chance to see the famous historical place, the source of Romeo and Juliet story. It was a very great experience.
Yes, I got several opportunities, I am currently working with the group that do arts and exhibitions and the show will be held in Greece (Santorine). My role is to do design which mixes African fashion and the Greek ancient clothing. This I believe is a great opportunity for me and my country as I am the only designer from Malawi. We also got a chance to meet high status people like Paul Simon, top make-up artists like Miguel Snelders, Irma Hulscher owner of Hulscher Cosmetics and top designers. I might also get a chance to design for Paul SimonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s next tour.
In 2006, I was one of the designers who dressed the Miss Malawi contestants and that is where Fame recognised me and in 2010 Fame encouraged me to join the contest. I was not sure whether I should, but after some thinking, I joined and lucky enough, I was chosen as the best designer. So, when this summer course came up, they did not hesitate but put me up and I must say I did learn a lot of things.
Being recognised as one of the best designers in Malawi was the highest point in my life. I look at designs as purely inspirational as I have never attended any fashion school.
I guess it is the sixth sense within me, right from my young age, I liked to rip off my mothers chitenje to create clothes, little did I know that I would be a designer. It was only after I won Fame 2010 that I knew this is my career.
What kind of design can we attribute to Lily?
Anything from ethic and African mixed with a modern attitude.
I work best at night after I have put the children to bed. I feel this is when the ambiance is more serene and my mind works at its best. By morning, I would have my sketches ready and depending on the availability of resources and the craftsmanship involved, I could complete an outfit the same day or even up to a week.
We face lot of challenges, we need a lot of support so that we can attend more fashion courses and workshops, and this will further help the designers to upgrade ourselves while connecting with other fashion designers from other countries, hence sell Malawi. There is a lot of talent in Malawi and it would be important to upgrade.
I am the fifth born from a family of six, three brothers and three sisters. My mother, Grace Thipha (nee Mjojo) is known for her involvement in netball. She has managed the teams such as Yellow Sisters, Admarc Tigresses and Olympic. My father, the late Cedric Thipha, was also a renown football player in his early years and worked for MBC as an electrical Engineer. I grew up in Kanjedza.
I am blessed with my loving and long-time husband, Alvin Alfonso. We have been together since I was 16 years old while he was 20. Together we have been blessed with the most adorable girls, Chantel and ChloÃƒÂ©.
I went to Chichiri Primary School then Njamba MCDE. But I did my Malawi School Certificate of Education Examinations at Kabula Private School. I have worked with Milnota as sales and marketing representative, and then I decided to do my Business Administration at Shareworld Open University. I have an advanced diploma. Later on, I also worked for Canotech as a sales and marketing executive. From then, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s when I decided to do designing full-time.
The most challenge was when my father passed on in 2008. I had always wanted to go to a fashion school and since there were six of us, my mother, being the only breadwinner could not afford to send me to the fashion school. As a widow, she made sure that we all got a fair share in everything.
From a tender age, we were taught to accept the little things we had and I think that is what has motivated me to try as much as possible to use the little resources I have to come up with good designs.
Whatever you do always believe in yourself, and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stop trying to do what you believe in. Your own talent might even surprise you. Knowledge is power, so never stop on the quest to find out more. Fashion is good and it defines who people are. Some can further get more information on fashionindustry.com. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a website which has information and tips about fashion.
My uncle, Professor Chodziwadziwa Mjojo- I admire him because he is an achiever in every field and I have always wanted to be recognised like him. In fashion industry, Lucy Nkonjera, I admire her work and she has proven to me that it is possible for a woman to be independent and achieve so much.
What would you do differently if you had to live your life all over again?
I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t change anything about myself. I think I have been blessed enough with what I have so far.
My trip to Milan, Italy this year has been an eye opener. In the future, I see myself attending more and more workshops abroad and exposing Malawi as much as I can while attending fashion shows and other fashion-related events. My goal is to share my knowledge and motivate those who have the same dreams like mine but do not have the advantages and opportunities I have.
Born 31 years ago at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre
Loves watching movies with her family
Loves to dance
She is a generous person
She pulls her hair when stressed
LilyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s quick facts
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Who has been your role model?
What advice to give to people who want to join this field?
What challenges did you encounter as a child?
Where did you do your education?
Tell us about yourself?
What challenges do Malawian designers face?
When do you best design your clothes?
Who inspired you to join this career?
What have been the highlights of your career?
How were you selected to attend the summer course in Italy?
Did you get any opportunities while you were there?
In July, you were in Italy, tell us more about this trip?
Will you take part in Fame 2011?
Last year, you were crowned Fame best designer, how did you feel?