By Karenhappuch Ibiara

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The future of Ugandan Fashion is bright- care to know who’s carrying the torch?

Kansiime Ella of Kanelja, Wanyana Bridget Sheila of Yana Ug are junior designers who recently had their garments featured on the September issue of Satisfashion Uganda featuring the current reigning Miss Uganda Oliver Nakakande. Aliad Zoe is a junior designer who is putting her own twist on fashion through the doldrums of living through coronavirus.

We sat down to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on their business and how fashion school has shaped their career decisions and where they’re looking to steer the fashion industry in years to come.

While most designers these days are self-taught and don’t see the need to go to fashion school, Ella and Bridget believe that fashion school lays a foundation without which they wouldn’t be able to stand today. 

Ella is a passionate designer that creates garments that celebrate self-confidence, applying details to simple silhouettes that celebrate the modern woman. As Ella says of her career: “This period has been tough, seeing that most of my clients are events goers in which events have now been put on hold. I haven’t been in business, but diversifying has been a great lesson that I have learned during this time. However, fashion school helped me learn the basics of fashion as an industry, from concept to realisation of a garment.

Image Courtesy: SatisfashionUG

I have taken this time to realise, learn and identify my aesthetic as a fashion designer hence giving me the courage and knowledge to start my business.  My dress having been featured in the September issue of Satisfashion Uganda is the validation I need to push my career to the next level.  However tough this season has been, knowing that I can put a smile on someone’s face and uplift their self-esteem when they wear one of my garments is enough fuel to keep me pushing. Also, it is not every day that Miss World Uganda wears your dress on a magazine. I really must emphasize that fashion school is worth it at the end of the day.”

Bridget expands on the direction of her place within the Ugandan fashion sphere: “With this being a difficult time for everyone, business has been slow for many designers too. Factors like increased prices of fabrics and scarcity of other fabrics, have discouraged many, But I am happy that people in Kampala have continued to dress up and support local designers. Magazines and online publications are still operational and hence keeping us busy. Once you understand the fashion process then you can be thankful for times like these. Fashion designers are always busy as the process is exhausting.

Image Courtesy: Satisfashion UG

With fast changing trends and consumer consumption, little time is always left to realise design concept to completion. Now we have some time to explore our references as well as ideas int his period to prepare us for post Covid-19 times.  Being in Fashion school taught me that even if the process is long, at the end of the day, it is rewarding. I keep slapping myself because if, in March 2020 you had told me Miss Uganda would be wearing one of my dresses at this time, I would not have believed you. Once you have developed your identity as a fashion designer, it doesn’t matter what stage or level you are operating at, I believe fashion school provides the building blocks to understanding and surviving in this cutthroat industry.  I am still enrolled and hope to graduate soon.”

The discussion on whether it is worth it to go to fashion school or not isn’t exhaustive. But the resilience displayed by these junior designers is enough to push even the laziest of designers. 

Aliad Zoe, has been using dolls as her muses as an impact of Covid-19 to her business and saying this about this period and it’s impact on fashion: “Allow me start by saying fashion school is actually more than I imagined, it broadened my understanding of how to design for a specific consumer. My consumer is the plus sized woman and my brand is focused on elevating the focus on the plus size woman as I feel like it is being neglected by the industry as  a whole, being plus sized myself I understand the struggle of  getting what to wear.

Image Courtesy: Aliad Zoe

This Covid-19 period has taken me back to the drawing table from where I birthed the idea of using dolls as my muses. Growing up I was obsessed with dolls and playing dress up. And now with the shortage of clients and uncertain times we are living in, I decided to design for the dolls as a way of displaying my resume. For example if a client wanted a custom made gown, I will pull out my catalogue that has my dolls and they would pick a design worn by one of the dolls. This has reduced on my operational costs and saved me a lot of time and money.”

If the fashion industry of Uganda can learn from the example of these three, then the future is certainly glowing bright.

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