Fashion has taken the country by storm; it is trending and moving at a supersonic speed where people don’t want to be left behind as far as dressing is concerned.
While the past years has seen people taking much interest in buying clothes from shops, it seems things are changing as people are now buying local wears made by “our own local designers.”
Gone are the days when people used to export suits from outside the country to wear during weddings. Today people buy suits from local designers and even the bridal parties get their wears from local designers.
Although fashion design is yet to gain ground in the country, fashion designers on the ground have shown they have what it takes to produce the best looking at their various exciting designs.
Designers among them Lily Alfonso, Clemoh Sato, Cathy Dixon, Khalidwe Wear and Nzika have done extremely well with their designs.
This is what brings us to Trade Fair at Chichiri in Blantyre where we meet Blessings Maere, who is slowly setting the pace in the world of fashion particularly men’s wear.
Together with other partners Blessings now runs Wow Designs Africa.
While many fashion designers have mainly targeted women’s wear taking into consideration that women love fashion, Blessings decided to concentrate on men’s wear after noticing a gap.
His prevailing styles and newest creations in men’s wear have seen him attracting lots of customers.
“I have never gone to any fashion school to learn the trade but it’s all about passion. When I was young I was interested in fashion and design but then in those days parents could not encourage their children to take this as a career,” said Blessings.
A son to late Reverend Andrew Maere, who was once deputy general secretary of Blantyre Synod, Blessings just like any other child went to school doing his primary at Namadidi in Mulanje and then Nansato in Zomba.
Blessings then went to HHI Secondary School in Blantyre and later Matindi before enrolling at University of Malawi – Polytechnic pursuing telecommunications.
He later got himself another opportunity as he went to University of Malawi –Chancellor College to pursue law which he ended up not finishing after his father passed away.
“When my father was sick, I struggled to pay school fees until later when he passed away. Being the first born things turned out to be difficult and so I had to reserve space at the college with the hope that I would come back later,” he explained.
The situation he was in forced him to look for a way out since he also had siblings to look after.
“So with my passion for fashion I decided to think about it but now the question was, who was going to teach me? Actually at first I was only thinking of tailoring,” said Blessings.
fashion, he did a research and found out that there were few designers that focused on men’s wear.
“I love what I do and I am happy with the designs I produce you talk of men’s suits and shirts. There are men’s wears we have produced and people have doubted us,” said Blessings, who prides in designing a jacket for musician Nesnes, which he wore in a music video for the TNM Smart Data project.
Blessings goes further to reveal that he dressed some of the contestants during the E-Wallet Talent show formerly Sunbird Search for a Star last year.
Apart from getting more knowledge on fashion designing through reading books and networking with fashion designers in and outside the country, Blessings is indebted to one Steve Mponda, who taught him the basics of tailoring before he went deeper.
“I contacted Steve Mponda after asking from people as to which tailor was good in men’s wear. Actually I did not pay him to teach me but rather what I did was to teach him other basics using the knowledge I had after reading books,” he said.
Blessings and Steve later came together running what came to be known as Paradise Wear.
“This is where I got the experience but then there was still something missing and that was the wow factor. This is where I now went deeper to read books on designing,” he said.
In the absence of designing schools in the country, Blessings only solution to advancing his skills was to read more so as to come up with better designs.
“The biggest challenge we have in the country is that we do not have fashion and designing schools. At the moment many of the designers are using their own inborn talent but this inborn talent needs to be boosted,” said Blessings.
He said it is because of the exciting designs that he later started creating that together with his partners named their business Wow Designs Africa simply meaning that they produce wears that are wow.
“As I said some of the shirts and suits we design are out of this world. Some people have actually doubted us but it is all because of our discipline and hard work. We always strive for the best and all those people who have bought our wears will attest that we don’t compromise on quality,” said Blessings.
Born on March 3, 1990, Blessings does not regret the path that he has taken although he would have loved to have finished law.
“I didn’t have a choice, I would have loved to have finished my law course but I didn’t have the money. I just want to thank God for being with me and showing me the way. With the situation I was in I did not choose to be a beggar but I went for fashion designing which today is putting bread and butter on my table,” he said.
Despite going this far, Blessings is not still satisfied with his achievements.
“I am still learning and all I want is to get opportunities to go for training and even get chances of exhibiting my designers in international platforms,” he said.
Blessings also said that he wants to help build the fashion design industry so that it produces more designers and designs to supply the market.
“At the moment we are running training where we want to teach youths fashion designing with the little resources we have. We have also identified some fashion designers who are producing attractive designs to work together. The idea is to create a good number of designers who can do exceptional work,” he said.
Blessings reveals that he did not have to have more capital to start the business but he first used his brains coupled with the passion.
“Many youths out there are afraid to take risks, all they want is to be given capital but I tell you that I didn’t have capital. I first of all used the little resources I had and now over the years I have managed to make that capital and buy more machines,” said Blessings.
He said that many local designers are producing exciting designs but people neglect them.
“It’s high time we supported our own things. I am happy that I have managed to build more customers over the years and I can tell you now that I have lots of orders from people who are doing weddings,” he said.
He said as designers they were facing several challenges citing among others access to materials they use and that they also have difficulties in getting proper machines.
“We need better machines if we are to stand out and again we need training to learn how to use some of the machines. We also need capital to import better machines which are used by our colleagues in other countries,” he said.
Blessings said the country needs fashion designers if it has to grow its economy.
“We can do it as fashion designers provided we have all the support otherwise there are exciting designs on the ground which we can be exporting but for now we cannot manage to do it in bulk,” he said.
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