Tawina Mbeza - Malawian fashion designer doing it big in Kenya


 By Timothy Ntilosanje 

Known as the fashion capital of the Africa, Kenya has become the planet’s greatest fashion authority. Kenyan fashions quickly find their way around the Africa world where they are eagerly embraced by fashion trendsetters. In the world of African-made fashion, one Tawina Mbeza has made a name for himself, first as an outstanding Marketing Executive and then as a brilliant designer of both print and haute couture clothing.

The Kenya-based, Malawian fashion designer, Tawina Mbeza recently showcased hip, young, wearable, and vibrant designs that were part of the collection of his popular MIM Fashion line of clothes at the Nairobi ZIMAZA Sports day.

ZIMAZA is Zimbabweans, Malawians and Zambians in Kenya. It's an annual family sports barbecue event that took place at Don Bosco Grounds in Karen, Nairobi. Attendance is from all students, parents and families living in Kenya especially in Nairobi. The event is annually organized by AMAKE (Association of Malawians in Kenya).

During the sports day, Mbeza’s MIM Fashion had setup up origami pieces around their stall as well as a 3x2metres media banner to attract patrons. The table had t-shirts, dresses and blazers. Their top selling item during the sports days was the Zebra checked t-shirt.

Ours arts writer Timothy Ntilosanje had a Q and A with the designer  for Malawi Heat a few moments after the event as follows:

Malawi Heat:  How can you describe yourself? (Who you’re, what you do, what you would like to be in the near future)

Tawina Mbeza:   I am a creative individual driven by curiosity and the desire to create influential items and experiences. My profession is Graphic Design but I venture into a couple of other creative entrepreneur activities such as I recently started designing fashion collections. In the near future I would like to be one of the youngest and most influential Malawian business tycoons in Malawi as well as Africa.

Malawi Heat: Apart from designing, what else do you do?
   Apart from design I am into Marketing. I currently work in an Experiential Marketing firm in Nairobi. I travel as often as I can and will travel more often than ever starting this c
oming December. I learn a lot from road trips and travel. I am also involved in event conceptualization and mentoring young creative individuals.

Malawi Heat: What is your definition of ‘designing’?
  My definition of design is one sentence that I thought of in 2010 when I first started Graphic Design; “Color is beauty but when you mix it with a concept it’s a masterpiece.”

Malawi Heat:   Is designing an expression of art?
 Yes. Funny how I have just remembered my first Airbrush portrait I created in my University sophomore year was for a girl I had a crush on...at that time...hehe. Besides that crazy point, I believe design is one of the expressions of art. It can be through Graphic Design, Videography, sketching, painting, fashion and other forms of art.

Malawi Heat: Do you think designing is a craft for industrial purposes?
I strongly think it is. Unfortunately local (African) industries have not fully realized that and yet most industries especially upcoming ones have at least a target market of the youth who are visual oriented individuals.

Malawi Heat:  In Africa, do you think we have design ethics? (If there are design ethics at all).
A few African countries have design ethics. I’d pick South Africa, Kenya & Nigeria to be some of the ones that do but though not yet fully implemented.

Malawi Heat:  Tell me more about the concept behind MIM Fashion? (When was it founded, what message does it carry?)
MIM Fashion was founded in August 2014. Started off by me designing my own custom shirts & blazers to wear to the office and social events. MIM Fashion stands for Made in Malawi Fashion. It does not refer to fashion or clothing designed in Malawi but rather ‘Fashionable Individuals of Malawi origin.’

Malawi Heat:  Competition-wise, what can you tell your competitors?
 As far as competition is concerned, first my competitors inspire me. Second, this might sound unexpected but I would like to work with my competitors, especially Malawian fashion designers.

Malawi Heat:     When should Malawi expect to sample the trendy prints?
 Malawi should expect to sample our trendy prints officially in January 2014 through our Back-To-School concept that I am working on. Though a few individuals ordered some of our designs and I will be shipping them to Lilongwe this month end.

10. What is the future for MIM fashion? How far do you want to take it?
MIM Fashion aims to incorporate Malawian designs in the future of Malawi fashion retail and events. We would like to go as far as having Malawi Fashion retailed in countries worldwide. We would also like to come up with a brand new print that the world can associate with Malawi fashion and culture.

Malawi Heat:  In your words, what is the relation of designing to the word of fashion?
 Designing complements fashion way more beyond clothing line concepts but also through branding, advertising and marketing.

Malawi Heat:   To whom does your designs address themselves: to the great numbers (masses)? To the specialists or the enlightened amateur? Or to the privileged social class?
 Our designs address young individuals that pick up and want to be associated with a trendy lifestyle, from clothing, accessories and technology. By young individuals I mean young by heart and not by age and so we can style up to the mature folks that just want to keep up with style as well as express a serious but more trendy gentleman’s and ladies look.

Malawi Heat:   What counsel can you give to your African fellow youths, Malawi in particular, who are engaging themselves in bad behaviors and other things?
I would say (we) the youth influence a lot of the future in culture, family, lifestyle and business. On the road to a future one imagines for themselves, it is wise to pick appropriate behaviors because anything you engage in now automatically positions you in a certain way in society. With that in consideration I also encourage the youth to pursue their dreams and not be limited by how society and our parents think life should be structured. If design or being an artist is your dream pursue it and learn the business side of it while you at it.

Malawi Heat:  Is there anything else you’ll like to add?
 I love Malawi and I believe we have a lot to offer to the world. Putting Malawi on the map starts with building a strong online presence while we step up to international standards in all we do. Currently there’s only so much you can Google about Malawi that is up-to-date. Something has to be done and it starts with the youth.

 asked where he gets his inspiration for his designs, Tawina Mbeza laughed slightly and said, “I really don’t know." “They just come from various elements, things, people and experiences that I encounter," he explained.

He added, “Everything that I see inspires me. Sometimes I just wake up in the middle of the night and discover a concept."

He was charming, positive, and passionate – loving what he does well: fashion designing.
The 25-years-old Tawina Mbeza is from Blantyre but grew up in Lilongwe Area 47. He studied at Phwezi Secondary school, class of 2006. He later moved to Kenya where he did a degree in International Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and graduated in 2012.

Apart from owning a fashion design company, Tawina Mbeza works as a Senior Creative Designer in an Experiential Marketing firm in Kenya he also plays the part of Brand Ambassador and Marketing Executive for a Malawi/Kenya Fashion house called Beads & Print.

More information on his Graphic Design profession and fashion designs can be found here: http://www.behance.net/tawinambeza

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