Climbing the Fashion Ladder!

In Malawi Fashion Design industry is growing. Many young women jumping in this industry. Read article on “Climbing the Fashion Ladder” at mywage.org Malawi

By Sam Banda Jnr

 

As the fashion design industry grows in Malawi, many young women are venturing into the trade. Weddings, bridal showers, modelling events and company functions all require either modern or traditional fashion designs, and business is booming.

Cathy Kamthunzi is one young woman who is climbing the ladder of success in the industry, and she believes in dreaming big. She plans to establish a big fashion industry that will produce the best outfits.

Talking to Mywage Malawi, Cathy says young women have the potential to become whatever they want.

Based in Malawi’s commercial city of Blantyre, Cathy was born on 25th, November 1986 and is the second in a family of six children. She hails from Kandeu village, Traditional Authority Chakhumbira in the central region district of Ntcheu.

Cathy did her primary schooling at Wings of Eagle in Blantyre and her secondary education at New Era, Kaphuka and Joyce Banda Foundation.

She later did a Diploma in Information Technology at Macmain School of Computing before embarking on her designing career.

“I have also done Design at Wits University in South Africa, which I am still pursuing with the hope of advancing my skills,” she says.

Cathy has established her own fashion shop known as Spectacular Fashions. But this is not an automatic path to success, as she also has to face competition from well-established Malawian designers including Khalidwe, Nzika and Zakwathu.

Cathy observes that designing something beautiful does not necessarily require expensive material.

“You can make something out of a tissue which is simple! As for my designs, I normally use cotton materials and Zitenje to produce an outfit,” she says.

Her interest in fashion design dates back to her school days when she used to knit various things, amongst them sweaters.

“I wanted to be an entrepreneur when I was in secondary school simply because I used to knit sweaters, but I also loved fashion,” she says.

Before gaining experience, Cathy, who opened her shop two years ago used to hire the services of a tailor to put her designs together.

“It was difficult because I wanted to do it myself. After sometime I got the courage and started doing it on my own with support from my parents,” she says.

She started with one machine which used to take quite a bit of time to produce her designs, before her father bought her another machine.

“At the moment I am happy because I have a heavy industrial machine which helps me produce more designs. My designs are very unique. For instance, I can buy trousers in a shop and change them,” she says.

She observes that with the market slowly being flooded by more designers, a person needs to be creative and to “use all your skills at your disposal.”

“I check what’s new on the market. I take time to read magazines to learn new things so that I can also improve my designs,” says Cathy.

Cathy says it takes her about three to four days to produce a complete product. She also has a few special clients - she designed a dress for one of the women who competed in the Miss Malawi event recently, and also for Malawi’s top gospel artist Ethel Kamwendo Banda, which she used during one of her shows.

“At the moment I mainly deal with individuals and work around what they have asked for. I also have gone further to sell my outfits in South Africa,” she says.

Cathy also says that sometimes she has designed clothes for people who have ended up not paying her.

“It’s not easy, sometimes you waste your time designing a dress or trousers and at the end of it all the person tells you they are not buying it. It’s unfortunate,” she admitted.

She also revealed that she was in agreement with two South African companies – Gloss and Kavlo - which supply corporate and protective wear.

“I do produce uniforms. But there are other things like boots which I can’t hence the agreement with the two companies,” she says.

Cathy says she supplies her uniforms and other protective wear to clients such as the Mount Soche Hotel, Malawi Blood Transfusion and the casino in Blantyre.

Cathy notes that while fashion and design is growing, there is more that could be done to market Malawian fashion.

In the next five years, Cathy says she wants to be part of a fashion industry which not only looks at clothes, but also shoes and other materials, so as to move away from the tendency to import everything.

“My plans are rich. I may look young, but I would want to do something great which the country will appreciate,” she smiles.

“I am thankful to my parents for their support and I am happy that I am able to help them as well. I would like to urge girls to start believing in themselves,” she says.

She says because she is so open to her parents, they have always supported her and not doubted her ideas.

“I travel a lot, but my parents know I am working and that it’s for the good of the family,” she explains.

A member of the Living Waters Church in Chilomoni; Cathy says: “I want to be a role model to young girls. I have met so many challenges within this trade and I am not afraid to say that men have come forward offering to give me business or money in exchange for my body. But I have resisted all this for I know what I want in life.”

She smiles. “Girls have all it takes to get ahead. They just need to put in hard work. We should move away from this idea of rushing to have boyfriends and ending up with unwanted pregnancies,” she says.

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