As usual, the third arrival of Fashion Malawi Edition (Fame) week on Friday brings back out-and-about Malawian designer Mehmuna Ibrahim Schumann and her Afrofashion clothing line which is trending in Mali.
A closer look at Afrofashionâ€™s eclectic collection is an encounter with a business-minded artist with the potential to stun the fashion world thirsting for a Malawian punch.
Showcased at Africa Fashion Week London along with Lilly Alfonso during the Olympics Games in August, Mali-based Schumannâ€™s creations are not only colourful and diverse but also tailored to have something for every fashion maniac on the African soil.
In her realm of creativity, fashion is a celebration of colours, versatility and West Africansâ€™ innate yearning to be noticed. Regardless of their figure, background and size, Malians do not like to hide in gray shades and layers of rejects from overseas.
Â â€œOur love for life is reflected in our clothing,â€ Schumann is quoted as telling the defunct Guardian newspaper prior to her debut appearance at the annual Fame exhibition in 2010.
According to the artist, her offerings are inspired by the diverse African culture, colours and fabrics. This makes Mali a perfect destination for her. Apart from its traditional cloth, called bazin, the land of the legendary Sundiata Keita is never short of assorted fabrics from Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Burkina Faso.
Among other things, she is credited with fashioning the chequered collection Mphasa Wanga, a mutant of Mphasa Yanga (Chichewa for my mat), from the traditional fabric which is beaten and starched by heavily muscled men to make it shiny and easy to clean.
â€œThese chequered patterns have become a trademark of my Malian experience. Clients specifically ask for this pattern and even want matching purses and handbags made to go with their dresses,â€ says Schumann.
The former Lilongwe resident co-established with her mother Laila Ibrahim at Area 47 in Lilongwe four years ago.
According to its website, the label started as a revival of tailoring business amid an influx of second-hand Western clothes even in rural markets.
â€œAfrofashion sought to promote a revival of local fashion production by engaging tailors in manufacturing modern African clothes using the colourful natural fabrics found at traditional â€˜chitenjeâ€™ stalls and weavers,â€ reads afrofashion.biz.
The success of early shows earned the stylist a cameo appearance at the Berlin Fashion week in February 2009 on invitation from the Goethe Institute and German Embassy.
Ever since, the line won the first prize at the Blantyre Fashion Bonanza 2009 and opened a branch in Mali in Bamako.
Against the wind of commercialised mass production, Schumann boasts that her label has remained true to its original idea of tailoring each piece of clothing as an individual work of creativity.