“If only we realise fashion and designing as a revenue generating industry in our country, then we can hit milestones”.
These are words of renowned Zambian fashion designer Faith Mulenga Kabende, who has proved to take her local styles to global heights.
Fay Designs does unique afrocentric as well western outfits, which has also received orders from Zambians in the diaspora, such as the USA, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany to name but a few.
As a designer, Faith has showcased her designs in the annual Zambia Fashion week, while her designs have graced the catwalks of South Africa, London, Paris, Algeria, Malaysia and Egypt.
Her passion for fashion and designing goes back to her school days, were she would take the initiative remake material for her fellow pupils.
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“When I was young I use to sale clothes at age of 12 years, I told myself that I shouldn’t work for anyone but myself. I use to make fashion clothing for my fellow school mates on days such as civilian day, and every time that day came about each year everyone in school was anticipating what I would come up with each time. so I use to go to salaula (Second hand clothes) and get some things, then dismantle them and then make them into something else, and people would always ask what is in your mind? But I loved doing that you know, when I look back at the pictures I laughed a lot,” she says.
It was a turning point for her as she discovered that her side job
brought her reasonable profits, which lead to her quitting her job.
“When I started working for Zamtel I use to do fashion designing as a side business, and I realised that i made more money than my actual job, and one day I asked myself, I think I can go into this full time and finally the chance came during my vacation leave in December, I had told my friends that I wasn’t going to come back, which they thought was a mad thing to do at the time, but I had already made my mind up, even when Zamtel called me to come back, I already knew what I wanted.
“I resigned to get into fashion and design full time, people asked why I was leaving a parastatal with a lots of incentives such as loans and benefits, but at that time I told myself that I needed to do something for myself, to do something that will leave an impact,” she says.
She relates that her first year in the art of fashion and designing
proved positive with tremendous profits, which lead to her never to work behind a desk again.
The designer however disclosed that challenges loomed around as she tried to make strides in her new business.
“I had so many challenges of course, I would have some dark days where you feel maybe I should remove the dust from my papers and go back to work, and entrepreneurship is like that at times, you feel the responsibility of taking care of so much people around you, which strains the mind, but I have learnt that if you want to be an entrepreneur you need support.
There were times when I thought I was forcing my self to do things, but because of the passion I had, I would wake up and do the same things that I did yesterday,” she says.
Kabende says one thing that has helped her to keep fighting
along her vision of growth as a female entrepreneur, is the consistent support received from her husband.
“I must say it hasn’t been easy I can’t lie to you, being a woman, mother, and wife, you need to separate time, sometimes when you have deadlines you go home late and some times when you make a lunch or dinner date but you can’t make it, there sometimes you think maybe I stop, but again you realise that my kids need that money for their school fees and other daily necessities.
“It’s not easy as a woman and you just have to stand your ground and tell yourself that you can do this, and when you have a supportive partner it works out better, otherwise this kind of business I do needs a supportive husband otherwise quarreling can arises, because sometimes you work late, go out of the country, need to attend night time shows, and if your partner is not understanding, then you might crumble in a short period of time,” she says.
The veteran designer stressed the need for locals to respect fashion designers, as opposed to diminishing their occupation.
“When you are a fashion designer and you go to other countries to showcase your material, designers there will respect and take you seriously, but here in Zambia they would diminish you and say (Aba niba tailorlala fye) “This is just a tailor”, but when you go in other countries they want to take a picture with you, they adore you, you know. I remember one older designer in Paris who told me that I respect designers, because they are like creators, and God is a creator, and you are close to God, as your will create something people have not seen, so you are a very important person, she says.
Kabende stressed the need to analyze the market value chain of the cotton industry potential, so as to improve revenue generation within it.
“In Zambia we don’t produce anything, so everything that is in our display wardrobes is imported, if I buy fabric and I say made in Zambia that means the dress was made in Zambia but the fabric was imported from else where.
“In Zambia we have so much potential, we have cotton, in fact the best cotton in southern Africa but we export in raw, you see if we do a value chain, were we have women who are picking cotton when its grown, sorting it out, put it in yen, then we process it into cotton then make fabric, you see most people can ran Mulungushi Textiles because we have been in this industry for a while and have the knowledge, experience and exposure, we have seen how people are running this industry in other lands,” she says.
Contributed by: Harbguy Mwambazi
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