She crafts her designs from local materials, turning the fabrics into ready-to-order-and-wear clothes that reflect a young, eclectic style.
Bright coral balanced by earthy hues, modest hemlines and stark, clean lines – a complete departure from the overtly feminine designs typically coming from Malawi’s budding fashion industry.
At 14, Tawile Kumsinda has created her own line of clothing aptly called FourteenFifteen.
She is multi-talented wunderkind who, so far, is an eco-fashion designer, artist and environmentalist.
But what has brought her to the limelight is her expertise in self-taught seamstress.
Tawile edged four other designers to bank the title of Fashion Edition Malawi’s Up and Coming designer contest that took place at Don Bosco in Lilongwe last weekend.
An elated Tawile could not believe it that she had won when her name was called out, blathering: “I am so happy and surprised at the same time that I have won.”
The Blantyre-based teenager, who is going into Form Four at St Andrews High School, designed her first dress for a bridal party.
“The very first thing I designed were bridesmaids dresses. Someone came for tailoring at my mum’s tailoring shops and I designed the dresses and the girls really loved them as they looked nice. These were bright yellow dresses with sequence and a draping down neck. And that was it,” she said in an interview.
Ever since that exploit in 2013, she has not looked back. She has seriously given designing her serious attention that she makes clothes for her mother, friends and aunties. She starts with sketching whatever outfit she wants to make on paper before translating the ideas on the fabric.
“I use my mum’s tailors in terms if sewing. Much as I don’t saw, I am able to tell where something has gone wrong. It doesn’t take much time to finish a sketch as within an hour I am done and after that, I will just be developing it. I am always inspired by things I see either from the surroundings or on television,” she said.
Arguably the youngest designer in the country, Tawile usually uses chitenje material.
“I also use Chiffon as you can wear it anywhere, whether formal or informal. I use chitenje and wax materials a lot as they are so interesting than other materials,” she explained.
Moving forward, Tawile is going to focus much on education while using her spare time for designing.
“My education remains intact; I am praying that all these events I participate don’t happen when I am at school, because if they do, I will be sending representatives. Soon, I will be sitting for my GCSE and A level examinations. However, I am still into designing.
“Otherwise, in my creative space I like coming up with sketches, ready for my collections. As such, I am always designing, sketching and at the end of the week I have a few drawings ready for the actual designing as it does not take many hours to come up with sketches,” she said.
Tawile also uses environmental friendly materials to come up with her designs as well as cards for different events.
She explained: “I use left over Christmas wrappers, materials from tailoring and cardboard paper as well as ribbons to recycle and come up with cards and I sell them. This is one way of my contribution towards an eco-friendly environment. That is why, fashion designer Mia Nisbet is my inspiration in terms of recycling.
“These days, people are not looking at the bigger picture, we should not waste materials and be careful of how much we are using. What are we going to leave the next generation with? “
In a country where children are discouraged from following the their dreams, Tawile is one blessed child, whose parents stood behind her all the way to the Fame event.
Said Tawile’s mother Linda: “We encourage her to realise her dream that is why we are always supporting all her endevours. As she is young, we will sit down as a family and look at everything and see what is in her best interest. She is very intelligent and she surprises us a lot, we ask what is the next thing she will do.
“My word of advice to parents in the country is to let our children pursue and live their dreams. We focus much on education yet it’s not easy to find employment in Malawi. Therefore we need to encourage our children to pursue their dreams apart from education.”