‘Putting a patch of chitenje on a shirt doesn’t make you a designer’

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The past three-to-four years has seen the mushrooming of ‘fashion designers’ from all the corners of Malawi.

While others have stepped out of the box to make collections that have made a mark both on the local and international markets, there has been a bunch whose authenticity leaves a lot to be desired.

Attending the many fashion exhibitions that have taken place in the country through the years, one would think most of the designs originated from one workshop.

Chris Ngalu

This week, one of the country’s fashion designers, Chris Ngalu of Creative Base, took time to express what could be described as discontent in the tendency that could be key in decelerating the growth of Malawi’s fashion industry.

The rising fashion designer, who has showcased great uniqueness in every creation he has put out, observed that “there is no way the Malawian fashion industry is going to grow if people keep stealing ideas”.

Ngalu said “[It’s] very unfortunate seeing people just get other peoples designs and twist a bit, originality is lacking.”

He posted a rock-solid message on Facebook; saying, “We all can’t be doing the same stuff, some things are not for everybody stay in your lane…”

“…ndiye enanso akamva [and others when they hear] design all they think is chitenje basi [only], putting a patch of chitenje on an already made shirt doesnt make you a designer..step out of that box… It’s deeper than that.” Ngalu added bluntly.

Creative Base collection at the Mzuzu Fashion Week 2016. Photos by Kimpho Loka.

Do you think Ngalu is right about what being a fashion designer is? Are Malawian “fashion designers” really not being creative enough? Please share your views in the comment box.

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