Malawi; “Warm Heart of Africa”- Maloto; meaning dreams in local Chichewa language
What are the dreams of these modern day fashion warriors?
By warrior I do not mean an aggressive person. A warrior is genderless, fearless and gentle, a defender of all things that are good for the planet and all of her inhabitants. In this series, I will be introducing you to five warrior fashion spirits who were invited to walk the runway at Eco-Fashion Week Australia, 2017.
“The gold benchmark of fashion should be a contemporary Ghandhian model, with self-sustaining communities producing crafted textiles and printed and embellished fabrics using organic, GM-free, Fair Trade cotton and other natural fibers with a low environmental impact. Fashion brands and governments need to invest in this bottom tier of the fashion supply chain in order to promote livelihoods and create jobs in rural areas-perhaps small factories and workshops next to the organic fields of cotton and food crops.”- Safia Minney
There is no end to the brilliance these young minds being mentored by Lily offer me. Again another under 20 protege already stepping humbly into her power. Another poster child for, “The New African Woman.”
The first time I met Faido she was very shy and quiet. Her energy is so different at our second meeting. She is forthcoming and eager to engage a conversation around fashion, feminism and the future of Malawi. She is so excited to introduce me to her fellow fashion designer, Mphatso. There is only support that they offer each other, which impresses me. There is no one competing for attention. There is an intense listening and presence they offer each other as they take turns speaking. This is rare to find anywhere.
“Everything that I am is everything i am wearing. The shoes that were given to me connect me to people's generosity. I am aware that the gifts I am wearing are coming from people who can’t afford giving them, yet they give anyways.”
She shares that she has never thought of doing anything other than fashion designing. Her strengths lies in men’s clothing. Her inspiration for Eco Fashion Week Australia is to design clothes for men that always look smart even if they are not going anywhere special. I like her energy. She is fun. She calls the look, “Mr Smart.”
Faida notices the fake plant on the table. She then almost whispers, “Fast Fashion.” She sighs, “It's tough to compete with fast fashion.” What we need to do is improve the fabric here. We need to get back into manufacturing fabric with better designs. Currently she integrates chitenji, african fabric, with contemporary fashion to compete with street markets.
What is the relationship between fashion and feminism?
Truth and transformation.
What is your favourite piece of clothing to wear?
I love small clothes, crop tops. We have to cover for culture though.
At our first meetings she has a portfolio of sketches that have been given thoughtful feedback by Lily.
Lily is an incredible leader and humanitarian. She has received international recognition for her fashion design and also her activism with respect to Albino rights. She is passionate about leading and speaking to a positive Malawian future where women have their power through their own economic freedom. To sit with her and Faida is a rare moment of mentor and mentee mutual devotion. Unfortunately the last opportunity I have to meet with her she is unable to connect. She has to deliver an envelope to her church. These young women are multidimensional, selfless and brilliant.
My prayer for these five designers. May they be celebrated at Eco-Fashion Week Australia 2017. May this celebration flow in 10 directions to help them realise and resource their own dreams for self and community.
Thank you to Zuhal Kuvan Mills for providing such a generous platform of faith to foster the dreams and healthy economic development of Malawi. Blessings alway to her and all the organisers who dreamt this inaugural platform into fruition.
May be all beings be everywhere be happy and free.
Coming next: Part 4 – Meet Nomonde Sambakunsi…
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Patti De Sante travelled to Perth, Australia, with 21 designs from these five fashion designers to promote their work, to highlight the beauty of of Malawi located in southeast Africa and to share the countries current progress in gender equality. Patti both showcased these designers, her first go at a runway show and blogs for the fashion platform. As an ordained zen buddhist chaplain and gender activist living in Malawi, she explores, “How fashion devotion develops the three minds of the Buddha and contributes to community health and happiness.” #bigmind #joyfulmind #kindmind