Just like Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld, Marc’s Marc Jacobs and dolce & Gabbana’s Domenico are synonymous with fashion worldwide, Joram Muzira’s name is steadily becoming synonymous with the fashion industry in Uganda.
If he is not attending a fashion event, he is marketing his models. He runs one of the biggest modeling agencies in Kampala. The former model with the Zipper models explains that his fuss over the fashion industry is deep rooted.
Muzira had an objective when he set out to open up the agency. “My focus was to have as many Ugandan girls on the international fashion scene as possible; to get booked for jobs outside Uganda,”Muzira points out. His initial investment was Shs1.5million.
What his day is like
My days at work differ from day-to- day, depending on the amount of work that I have to do. On days that I have castings, I wake up as early as 6am and prepare in advance. I ensure the models have been called a day before the casting, prepare for the casting materials, photographers, videographers and anything else that is needed for the casting.
Then the rest of the days, I am majorly working on developing new portfolios for the models, updating my social media platforms and doing administration work for Talent Africa, where I work as an administrator.
The birth of Joram Model Management
“My elder sister Druscilla Muzira was the eastern regional winner for the 2002 Miss Uganda contestant. I guess that is where some of my inspiration to get involved in this industry started from,”Muzira points out. After working a few years in the fashion and modeling industry, Muzira decided to start his own modeling agency. That is how Joram Model Management was born.
“I opened up the agency on January 25, in 2012. My main purpose was to help Ugandan models get a steady foundation and get the international exposure that they need,” he says.
“I began with 50 models. Getting the models to work with was quite easy, because I had worked with many of the top models in this town, and was also in contact with many designers.” he adds. Luckily, the agency was positively received by the public which gave him morale to go on.
Currently, the agency has more than 200 models signed to its label, although, Muzira points out that only 20 of these are bankable.
“By bankable, I mean there are only 20 that I would recommend on an international level. The rest are what we call the commercial models – they are just there to help make the money.”
Operation and profits
While scouting for models to sign into the agency, online and physical casting calls are done. “We look out for the bankable models, those with faces that are not like the everyday face. In this industry, if you look like someone that has already made it, then it becomes hard for you to book jobs,”Muzira elaborates.
Working with others
Muzira explains that the agency works hand in hand with advertising agencies as these bring in jobs. He explains that, “Advertising agencies represent different brands, and companies and that is why they are the link between us and our clients. You can’t go directly to the company to get jobs. You have to go through the advertising agency.”
Muzira points out that it took him a whole year to begin realising real profits.
“In the beginning, we would even volunteer to work at fashion shows for free, or enter a sponsorship deal; where we would have our models work. This was all aimed at creating and growing the brand.
Later, things began changing,” he adds.
In July, 2013, the agency registered its first profits of Shs17 million. On a monthly basis, Muzira says he earns between $600(about Shs1.6 million) and $1000 (about Shs26 million), depending on the work.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND CHALLENGES
After three years of operation, Muzira is proud to say that he has been able to register a few success stories, mainly those of some of his models accelerating to greener pastures.
“One of my biggest success stories, I must say is that of Stacie Aamito, who won the first cycle of Africa’s Next Top Model. Her victory was not just a source of pride and joy to the agency but to Uganda as a whole,” Muzira adds. Aamito is currently in New York, signed to DNA modeling agency.
He also points out, Audrey Nape, a Ugandan model and student, who featured on the run way at the just concluded London Fashion Week. “Our latest export is Sharon Mirembe Sanya, who has just been signed to contact models in South Africa,” he adds. He also points out the just concluded Miss Uganda contest where all the girls scouted by his agency made it to the top 12.
The negativity looming around this industry seems to be the agency’s greatest challenge.
“People in Uganda are yet to understand the industry. They still have the perception that it’s for prostitutes, call girls, gay people, and the like. They still take models for granted,” he adds.
The other challenge is the low wages accorded to models, which are one of the reasons many of them choose to work outside Uganda. “Models in Europe don’t do runway work for less than $150 (about Shs390,000). But in Uganda, the models are paid as little as Shs50,000! And you know what excuse they give? That they are promoting them,” he adds.
Muzira adds that what they do not understand is that the two have to work hand in hand to promote one another. “The government has also not done much to support the industry. Take for instance the newly signed Pornography Bill. I am not saying it is right for people to move around half naked. But in the modeling industry, you will notice that the semi-nude shots are the ones that usually get models popular,” he explains. So in a way, the Bill is a hindrance to the industry.
Muzira’s optimism about the industry.
Even though the fashion and modelling industry has registered steady growth in past years, Muzira sees the future of the industry much better in the next four years. “I believe four years from now the industry will be 10 times better. We now have more Ugandan models making it big in the international scene. Maybe we could be able to afford Carl Lagerfeld coming for fashion shows down here in Kampala!” he adds.
Muzira employs two permanent staff, and hires extra help in case there is a gig.
“At the moment, I have a Personal Assistant, and she in charge of online work and the public relations of the company. I also have an in house make-up artist,” he adds. His sister, Druscilla Muzira, is the company’s marketer.
“I want the agency to expand and move from just being based in Uganda to being continental. Three years from now, it should be called Joram Model Management Africa,” he explains. He also hopes to start up a reality television show, with focus on talent search for models.
His tips on how to be successful in this industry
• Be professional.
• Public relations and marketing skills have to be your best friend in everything that you do if you are to succeed in the fashion and modeling world.
• Honesty is key in this business. If you are shady, no one will want to deal or work with you.
• You have to know the dynamics and the dos and don’ts of the industry as well.
• Scout extensively for models that are extremely bankable if you are to make a mark on the international and world scene of modeling.
• People skills have to come in handy since it’s a business that majorly deals with working with different people!
LESSONS ABOUT BUSINESS
Over the years, I have picked a few lessons that could have helped me get this far. Perseverance and working extremely hard is important because in this industry, it is about more than being passionate about succeeding. It goes beyond all that. You have to endure working fort extremely long hours and dealing with all sorts of people.
I have also mastered the art of Public relations and marketing because that’s part of the driving force to make it big in this industry. You have to know how to deal with different clients and people from all sorts of backgrounds in order to book different worthwhile jobs.