Malawi has an exciting young fashion scene, with more and more fashion designers being born.
This is despite Malawi not having formal fashion design schools.
Undisputedly, Malawians love fashion, which is why it comes as no surprise that the escalating shopping mall culture has come with the invasion of boutiques and fashion outlets.
And fashion is everywhere because even in the shanty towns too, on every corner there are little fashion shops, selling reasonably priced, mostly South African and Tanzanian made clothing items.
But, not the whole of Malawi’s fashion scene is dominated by foreign-made clothes and accessories: there is a fashion, growing of sorts, boasting of bold, unique easy to wear locally made products.
The purveyors of these products are a group of vibrant young designers, many of whom are not trained at all.
Having graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Humanities from Chancellor College, the inner self of Nomonde Sambakunsi persuaded her to try fashion designing.
“After graduating from the university, I worked in the cooperate world for a while, but I discovered that my passion for fashion design was strong and irresistible so, I went into it full time. The love for fabric design and textures and wanting to make something with them motivated me,” she said in an interview.
She then enrolled with the University of Minjian in Fujou province in China and trained as a textile and fashion designer.
She then came back and established her label and fashion house in Lilongwe. Her label has grown fast over the last three years.
“My design label is Nomonde. All my designs are original, ready to wear as well as made to order. The world of textiles, colours and clothes design has always been in my blood from as far back as I can remember. I used to make dresses for my dolls, and enjoyed playing dress up with my mother’s and my sister’s clothes.
“When I established my label in 2012, I was only doing children’s clothes, now the label has grown such that we design clothes and accessories for all ages. I have always been into fashion and trend setting,” she recollected.
Most of her designs are original one offs, carefully made, making her among connoisseur of style in the country. As she waxes lyrical about her love for fashion, she is surely keeping the soupçon of fun alive in fashion.
“I sit down with my clients, discuss what they want and out of that I come up with a design of their liking. My designs are known for superior fit and craftsmanship. Most of my clients are ladies looking for that special look, comfortable fit, well-tailored and finishing and all at an affordable price.
“My market within the country is small but growing. I also have a growing market outside Malawi especially with the growing demand for clothes made from African fabric within the diaspora,” she explained.
Nomonde boasts of making outfits for different occasions, such as bridal wear including bridal gowns, traditional chinkhoswe wear, smart wear, smart casual, for men, women, boys and girls.
“I also do hand bags, clutch bags and a whole range of accessories. I use different type of material/fabric depending on the designs and occasions for the outfits.
“However, in designing people usually associate locally made clothes with the chitenje material. If you make an outfit with other fabrics without adding a feel of chitenje people do not recognise such as made by a Malawian designer,” she said.
She has only showcased her designs at two fashion shows; at Sunbird Capital ladies dinner and dance organised in conjunction with Professional Women’s Network as well as a children’s fashion show when she just started.
She is also yet to launch her label soon, but her designs exude the effortless style and confidence of a young African designer with international flair and reflect the ever- changing mind and style of fashionistas.
Moving forward, she aims to contribute to the ever growth of the Malawi fashion industry.
“It is vast and going in the right direction however, there is no coordinated effort among the various players, which deteriorates growth. This industry would get to greater heights if Malawi had a fashion council. The Fashion council which would help to uplift this industry, let people concerned has a voice in which policy issues affecting them would be tabled.
“On an international scene, Malawian players in this industry would easily be recognised with a fashion council established as they have the support and stamp of Malawi government. Most established fashion councils are more interested to work with government bodies than just individuals,” she said. n