Fashion is a multi-million dollar industry in South Africa.
Currently estimated to be worth close to K7.8 billion (R184, 375 million), according to South Africa’s Clothing Market 2019 analysis, it continues to make its leading players from designers to founders rich.
As a result, the country has a magnetic force, attracting fashion players such as designers, students and enthusiasts, among others, to the industry.
One such talent is Ekari Makunganya, a fashion designer who apart from getting training in the profession, she has proved to be a force to reckon with.
A diploma in Fashion Design holder from Cape Town College of Fashion Design, Makunganya is fast establishing her name in the highly demanding South African fashion industry,
Recently, she won Truworths Most Fashionable Commercial Range Award; one of the biggest recognitions in the Rainbow Nation for up-and-coming fashion designers. Truworths is a South African clothing retailer with shops even outside the country.
Said Makunganya: “The thought of being the first Malawian to ever win a Truworths award is something I never imagined five years ago. I value this award so much as it is a major milestone for me as a person.”
“The award signals a big achievement to the awarded students. This award is given to one person who produces the most fashionable commercial range with Truworths making the final decision.”
She admitted that her studies in fashion got tougher each year.
“I remember how I had reached breaking point in my final year and questioned myself if I still had the ability to complete the course due to the various obstacles that kept coming my way right down to the final two weeks before graduation,” she said.
With her brand Wari doing exceptionally well at the awards, the recognition propelled the designer to do more, earning herself a place at some of the big events in Cape Town.
Apart from showcasing at the Cape Town College of Fashion Design, Wari designs have been showcased at emerging artists collaboration fashion shows and at The Annual Bokeh Fashion and Lifestyle Film Festival launch in December.
The up-and-coming fashion designer said Wari has a collection called ‘Powerful but Peaceful’ and it is based on gender-based violence, emotional abuse as well as dealing with self-esteem and suicide.
At the core of Wari is the zeal to convey a message of strength and solidarity with women, making sure that the world knows “we are not defined by what we have been through and that protesting for society to change actions towards women doesn’t have to always be angry and loud”.
Said Makunganya: “The world is changing and women need to know that the power is already within us. We are the only ones that have the power to tell our stories, not as victims but as people taking charge of their destiny and putting an end to violence against women and men alike.”
She said the garments will make women feel and know that they have the power to be strong, to be daring as well as for them to know that they are not defined by what has happened to them.
“This is shown in the bright unconventional colour combination and eye-catching prints and silhouettes that were inspired by women during the World War II that started working at jobs that used to belong to men only,” she said.
Makunganya has always had a passion for designing but only embraced it about five years ago. Before moving into apparel, she used to love making handmade jewelry as a hobby and turned it into a small business.
“I always make sure that I have signature components when designing, which include bold and unapologetic, unconventional colour combinations and collaborations,” said the fashion designer who initially wanted to study business administration or marketing.
At the moment, the designer is focusing on having a formal launch for Wari.
“I am currently starting to work on my next collection which is going to be used to officially launch Wari at the end this year, hopefully if the pandemic reduces. I am also working with a few Malawian musicians for music videos. I have worked with Kim of Diamonds and I am currently discussing with Bucci,” she said.
In a separate interview, the award-winning artist Bucci said despite having plenty of fashion designers in Malawi, he was swayed by Makunganya’s work ethic.
“She will be styling me and some of the people starring on my newest project. It’s surely a done deal. I like how detailed and matured her designs are plus she’s honest, which would promise a true to self-style,” he said.