A business major in fashion designing
Posted Saturday, February 16 2013 at 00:00
A glance at the corporate world, and one Business Administration graduate was sure being employed to wake up early and work until evening was not what she wanted. But that might have only been an excuse for her to pursue her true passion, fashion, which has fortunately not let her down.
At the university, Hawa Antique Mutayanjulwa studied Business Administration with a major in marketing. At the time, she did not know that love would bring her to East Africa to settle with her man, and find another love altogether. Fashion became her second love out of a hidden passion, which she soon began to explore.
“My main aim is to work with individual sizes and shapes to get to add glamour to the person’s personality and people love uniqueness, especially when it comes to the bride. I love to make the bride very unique at a very affordable price,” she explains about the work she’s famed for.
When Antique, as she is popularly known, looked at the working scene in Uganda, she immediately made up her mind that she was not cut out for the corporate world of waking up in the morning and working till 5p.m. She began scratching her head for ideas. She did not expect it would be a problem that would present as a great idea.
In 1999, her sister sent her two fabrics and Antique had an old dress and wanted the same fashion so she took it to a tailor and was charged exorbitantly.
“But months back, I had been charged only Shs2,000 to do equivalent work, in Nigeria, so, at that time it was cheaper to send it back to Nigeria, get it tailored and sent back,” Antique tells about the incident that became her main inspiration to go into fashion.
She bargained with the tailor down to Shs15,000. There and then she made a decision that if that was what was charged to make clothes then she would design and make clothes at a cheaper price.
The neigbour’s first order
Her first design was a skirt and blouse for a neighbour who had heard her chattering machine. “She popped in and found me stitching, and just made an order right there and then. I didn’t tell her that I did not know how to make anything into wearable material. I just accepted,” she shares about the first order she got.
I ask her about where she then learnt how to creatively design beautiful dresses and gowns for brides which she’s most popular for today. “Honestly, I am self-taught and I learnt from trial and error. I did not study art. In fact, I have a degree in Business Administration with a major in marketing and fashion had never come to mind,” she shares.
So when she took her neighbour’s order and made her a skirt and blouse, it was a challenge. “It took me about two weeks and I must say it was a miracle that she liked it because I was an amateur,” she adds as she shows me some of the gowns soon-to-be picked by clients.
The secret with kitenge
Antique liked to work with kitenge because she is able to get them in plain colours, a variety of colours, in pure cotton. As a designer, this allows her to bring out her versatility as she can use them for any design. And she does not limit herself on the numbers she can handle when creatively designing. Her biggest order, for example, was for a wedding of a couple who had 69 people and she rose to the challenge and delivered.
“This order took us about three weeks. There were shirts and trousers for the page boys, dresses for all the flower girls, shirts and trousers for the groomsmen, skirts and blouses for the maids, skirt and dress for the groom. We used ashoke for the groom, which is hard-weave from Nigerian. When a client wants it, I order for it,” she explains. But it was not her memorable work.
The joy of people admiring my work
Antique has two memorable orders. “The first one was at the time we had not yet gone into full wedding gowns. We made dresses for the maids. The bride had both English and African changing dresses and we decided she changed into African first so the entire group changed into their African wear and, for most people, it was the first time for them to see kitenge being taken seriously, and I am very happy to say I got a standing ovation,” she shares.
Her second most memorable dress was made for a real African woman. “It was challenging making that dress because the bride was size seven and getting a wedding gown for her size was not easy, so, she approached me and I told her we could make her the dress and she put her trust in me and I am very happy to say I delivered,’ Antique adds. This one took her about a month to complete.
When the bride decided to change into African wear, everyone had to stand up to get a good look at her outfit. “As she entered the hall, the only people who were sitting were those wondering why others were standing. I must say it was fantastic and satisfying people admiring my work,” she recollects.
In her work, Antique says she values quality over money. “It is not about the money, but about the satisfaction and the feel-good factor that my client is fully satisfied,” she explains. This perhaps tells of her humble begins.