Who said every bride has to hire or go abroad to get a wedding dress of her dreams? This used to be case in the past. Now, Malawi has home-grown fashion designers who have mastered the art of making wedding dresses according to specifications of the bride. They are called custom-made dresses.
Now, as we all know, a wedding dress is one of the most complicated pieces due to its delicate balance of fashion, meaning and style. The pieces of fabric that are needed to come up with one dress are also another thing that needs time, effort and talent.
But this is the very thing that local young lady Alinafe Fridah Mapwesera is doing. She is s self-taught wedding dress designer who for the past eight years has developed her unique style and is able to come up with wedding dresses of various designs.
“I started as a general fitter designing and making anything, but now I majored in wedding dresses and anything bridal. I am a bridal tailor now,” said Mapwesera.
She said for her to come up with a proper wedding dress, it takes her two weeks.
“With the help of my team of two tailors and three beading women, on average we make about seven wedding dresses a week,” said Mapwesera.
Knowing that as a designer her pieces have to be unique, the designer said she mostly gets inspiration from everyday life.
“I might be walking, see something on the street and decide that it would look good on a dress. I then sketch my ideas. Sometimes clients bring their own pictures for inspiration,” she said.
But does the profession pay well?
According to Mapwesera, the profession as a fashion designer is rewarding but it needs patience and investment.
“I invest in good quality material and photo shoots. Now I am enjoying the reward of all my sacrifices and investment,” she said.
The designer disclosed that the challenge of being a local fashion designer is that she has to import most of her raw materials.
She said: “We have to get raw materials from outside Malawi. The materials are expensive. Sometimes we struggle to get the right machinery.”
Mapwesera added that another challenge with her work are angry clients.
The designer who studied business administration and was working as an administrative assistant at LTCS and later Baptist Convention of Malawi, had to resign to pursue her passion.
“Right now I think it is exciting that local designers are being given a chance. When I started, it was an industry considered as that of school drop outs. Wedding dresses were imported from China, but now even big bridal shops are ordering dresses from us,”said Mpwesera.
One of her clients Essie Songa said her wedding dress by Mapwesera was exactly what she wanted.
She said: “My dress was everything I wanted. I first saw the dress on the Internet and I thought of just ordering it because I was not sure if any tailor would bring it out the way I had seen it. When I asked Fridah for ideas, she told me she understood the assignment and yes, she gave me exactly what I ordered.”
Songa said after she wore it on her wedding day, several other brides now want to hire it.
Looking back at her journey as a designer, Mapwesera said the future of the fashion industry in Malawi is bright.
“I keep on improving myself by watching fashion videos on YouTube and other websites. I also keep trying new things on myself first before offering the same to customers.
Mapwesera was born and raised in Ndirande, Blantyre.