At only 22, Mphatso Chisale has turned her dreams into reality.
Besides being a business student, she is also a creative entrepreneur, specialising in the fashion and design industry.
Her passion for designing started when she was young. Growing up, she loved dresses, colours, textures and anything that beautifully changed with the touch of creative hands and mind, whether it was clothes or spaces.
“I always had the talent of drawing. I was the kind the teacher commended for having the best illustrations for my school work or projects. So with that talent, I shifted my interest to fashion illustrations. I later started designing clothes upon discovering the joy beautiful designs brought me and which people loved,” she said.
Eventually, Mphatso realised it was the creative industry she was destined to be with a bias to fashion.
She acknowledged the existence of many talented creators, making the industry highly competitive.
“I knew I needed a mentor to help me nature this dream to the capacity. I met Lilly Alfonso who exposed me to a larger audience and how to monetise my talent,” she added.
Through networking, exposure and support that Mphatso got from already established designers such as her mentor Alfonso, she was able to showcase her designs at some of the biggest fashion shows.
Prior to launching her brand Chitenje Accessories in 2017, Mphatso showcased some of her ready to wear pieces at TRI Fashion Show by Alfonso, Eco Fashion week in Canada and Australia fashion week.
“These were some of the best moments for me because the experience of showcasing your art to an entirely new audience is something fulfilling. And these opportunities helped and pushed me to work even more on my products to meet international standards,” said Mphatso.
The designer created Chitenje Accessories in 2021. It specialises in accessories for fashion enthusiasts who embrace chitenje fabric.
That is how she came about naming her brand Chitenje Accessories, because the majority of her products and designs are made in chitenje fabric.
Her inspiration to founding the brand came about to satisfy the demand for products she offers.
“I discovered many products were not readily available on the market. The goal was to make them available at a click of a button,” said Mphatso.
She explained that her goal to supply the small things that are either not worth the waiting time by local tailors/designers.
Mphatso observed that many things are custom made upon order and it’s usually that one small thing that is needed urgently.
“That is where Chitenje Accessories comes in. Apart from that, I saw an opportunity which would help me exercise what was my hobby to monetising it to enhance myself economically while I still had fun along the way,” she added.
On July 1, Chitenje Accessories will be clocking one year, an achievement Mphatso is proud of.
During her journey as an entrepreneur and fashion designer, Mphatso has faced different hurdles she has had to overcome.
“People have questioned my competence as a service provider even before sampling the products just because I am young and perhaps female. And also, being a young woman with big dreams is always looked upon as just a fairytale that cannot grow to full capacity.
“So clocking one year is the greatest milestone in my career as a small business owner, taking from the circumstances the business started, in the midst of a pandemic and also having faced some challenges along the way such as inflation,” she said.
Chitenje Accessories offers products such as travel neck pillows which have been Mphatso’s greatest initiative as they are strictly in Chitenje fabric.
She makes tote bags, laptop bags, pillow cases, cushions for home decoration, women hair accessories such as high-end bonnets, headbands and scrunches.
Mphatso also makes and men’s accessories such as neck ties, bowties and other amenities.
She also makes branded T-shirts for both men and women that focus on preserving the culture of Malawi and Africa at large.
“Chitenje Accessories sorely relies on digital marketing and with this, I am able to operate beyond Lilongwe which is my physical location and a few times, I have been able to do business outside country.
“I receive orders from anywhere. So far, I have contacted customers from Mzuzu, Nkhatabay, Blantyre, Zomba and Mangochi,” she added.
According to the young designer, her business has gotten a very good response and engagement has kept on rising.
“Having customers contacting me from different cities encourages and attests my authenticity as a service provider. I am not where I want to be yet, but the progress is promising” says Mphatso.
In the near future, she is looking forward to working with organisations which foster the livelihoods of girls and young women by donating reusable sanitary pads to them with safety and management of their menstruation hygienically.
She is also an advocate of girls through the Malawi Girl Guides Association (MGGA), a non-governmental organisation for girls and young women.
Through their network, she has reached girls from different parts of Malawi to talk about gender-based violence.
Some of the highlighted topics include how to identify and report violence.
Other topics include educating fellow girls on how to safely and hygienically manage themselves during their periods, what products are widely used and how they can make the products with locally sourced materials.
Within MGGA, they are different projects, national and others international.
One of the ongoing international projects under the MGGA is the YESS girls movement, an international youth exchange programme where girls from different countries are given an opportunity to go to visit another country for six months where they work with a host girl guiding association on advocacy campaigns, community work as well as general running of the institution.
“In my advocacy journey, I have represented Malawi Girl Guides Association in international exchange programmes which together with my team mates from Nigeria, Rwanda and Madagascar received an award for power our team. I was stationed in Kenya during my exchange back in 2019,” said Mphatso.
She is the fourth born in a family of five. She was born on the September 7 1999 and did her education at a number of institutions.
She attended Chilinde Primary School and Chipasula Secondary School.
Mphatso is studying with the business management at the Malawi Collage of Accountancy.
Her advice to young girls is to always be resilient, no matter what they face.
“Personal challenges will always be there as they are part of life. They are there to challenge you; choose to face them with a bold and fearless heart. There is always something to learn in them. Believe in yourself and don’t give up on your dreams. They are attainable!” she said.
In her free time, Mphatso enjoys listening to French and Swahili music, reading books and spending time with her family.