She is a creative soul who has a passion for fashion. From the time she was a little girl, Amina Mimi Kirema was obsessed with making dresses for her dolls. She never envisioned fashion as her ardour.
More like reflex, she involuntarily responded to trends in the style world. At the back of her mind, she was cautious of her staunch Muslim background. To her admission, “My parents are God-fearing and humble. We lived life a Muslim way. I think it has shaped me so much into the person I am today.”
But like any teenager, she had her way as a shy yet rebellious and curious girl. “I always wanted things my way and as a teenager, I thought I knew it all. I always went partying with friends and was in newspapers. People misjudged and misunderstood me. I remember one time when my father saw pictures of me in the papers and he beat me up. It is something I will never forget,” Kirema recounts.
At 16, in Senior Five, from a wayward adolescent, the punishment sent a message to the youngster, and this affected the way she looked at her number one fad too- fashion. She switched to more decent creative ideas.
While she stepped out in garbed attire, the hobbyist pondered a career in fashion designing. To stand out, she needed to be different by finding a niche; her mind had to scheme back to what she had grown to appreciate- religion.
“I wanted to design clothes for women who struggle to find clothes that are modest but also trendy. Then I started putting my personal touch to the clothes and looking at details with my taste,” she adds.
The self-taught stylist, in her then desired to achieve academic qualification. She enrolled for a high national diploma in fashion design at Mcensal School of Fashion, Kenya in 2014. Henceforth, she has been consistent, waking up as early as 6am, focusing on her grand dream of pushing her brand to heights.
Kirema’s motivation is undeterred. “I always strive to learn more and to be around others who have more experience. Most importantly, I enjoy practicing my craft. I believe in hard work and consistency through challenging myself to achieve more.”
“I pray that I can inspire young Muslim girls that they can be modest and stylish without having to change just to fit in what society considers beautiful,” she adds. When she had to choose a name for her company, she flew with her name- Amina Mimi, under which she has made Kimonos, dresses, maxi skirts and kitenge.
Spreading the word
She works from home for now and markets her products through social media, using her name Mimi Amina as the handle. She also wears her designs and uses word of mouth.
“People in Tanzania appreciate local talent. When I travelled to Tanzania, I saw how the fashion industry was growing at a high rate and how people appreciated local talent. That was inspiring enough to move and risk it there,” Kirema explains.
She learnt a lot about business and how to handle people, no matter where they come from. And when business hours were out of the way, she went out to enjoy Dar es Salaam’s offerings in taste, and customs.
“The people, culture and food is so sweet. I particularly enjoyed muhogo wa nazi (cassava cooked in coconut milk) and pilau, which I miss,” she recalls. But home was where the heart was. She missed family and friends’ support.
The second born in a family of four, Mimi grew up in Jinja, a town she describes as a place where life is beautiful and simple. From her parents, Mr and Mrs Khalid Kirema, she learnt hard work, humility and faith in God above everything.
“She is an awesome, inspirational young lady. Her work is amazing and I‘m lucky to wear one of her kimonos. Her sense of art is just fabulous.” Monica Agoa, Project Manager, Keith Heart Foundation
“Mimi has a good sense of style, it is hard to find a Muslim slay on a daily. I love mimi’s creativity because she is different!I realised integrity is key. She will definitely dress me till my great grandchildren.” Jhanette Masembe,CEO, Creatif La Passion