You never know where the next design will come from but when it comes it is always something phenomenal. New designers come from different parts of the world adding their ideas to already known designs, in order to bring patterns people will fall in love with. Up and coming designers in Malawi are doing just that by bringing new fashions that incorporate modern and western designs with the Malawian traditional material, chitenge. Cathy Kamthunzi and Mia Nisbet are two designers that are climbing the fashion ladder quickly and making a name for themselves in Malawi, Europe and Africa as a whole.
Every culture has their traditional clothing styles just as Indian’s have their saris, Malawians have something called “chitenge”. It is like the traditional clothing of Nigeria and Ghana but has a different name. The chitenge is used in different forms such as being wrapped around the waist like a sarong, around the head as a scarf and even used as a sling to hold babies. Chitenge is used for many things, but today is being incorporated into new designs by fashion designers into something more modern. Now modern dresses and pants are made from the material, while the traditional uses and designs of the material are still intact.
Cathy Kamthunzi is described as energetic and passionate about fashion. She exemplifies her passion for fashion through her different designs, some which will be shown at the Swahili Fashion Week (November 8-12, 2012). Kamthunzi’s passion for fashion began while she was young when she used to knit various things and wanted to become an entrepreneur. Kamthunzi’s dream has come true by now owning her own business called Spectacular Fashions. Many of the designs Kamthunzi produces have a modern and Western style to them. She takes the chitenge cloth and makes them into different modern designs that many people wear in the West. She has put a different twist by using the chitenge cloth to make the modern and Western styles instead of combining it. Kamthunzi has been very successful in her business and her designs are becoming popular around the world. She designed clothes for a contestant of the Miss Malawi competition and a well-known Malawian gospel artist named Ethel Kamwendo Banda. Despite her growth in her business and passion the one thing Kamthunzi wants to be is a role model to young girls, letting them know that they can achieve anything in life if they put their mind to it.
Mia Nisbet is not a Malawi born native but has made Malawi her home. Nisbet graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 2003 and after graduating she went to work for Michiko Koshino as an in-house designer. It was not until 2008 that she began her own fashion company named MIA, named after her. She received the inspiration for her designs from the street markets in Malawi. In Malawi, the street markets sell second hand clothes from Western countries because many people want clothes from the U.S. and Europe. Since some Malawians like the modern western clothing, Nisbet thought they might like it better if it was fused with their traditional cloth, chitenge. She decided to take some of the modern western clothes and add the traditional chitenge cloth in order to produce a collection that combines the richness of African textiles with Western styling. Besides fusing African textiles and Western styling, Nisbet also uses the African textiles on shoes to give them a new look. Nisbet’s creativity and fusion of two different cultures has made her designs amazing and made her a sensation.