Winner Of The 2019 Truworths Most Fashionable Commercial Range Award
Malawi is sitting on a keg of dynamite that is its fashion industry. The rise in the number of fashion designers annually, each with unique direction and style identity, is signalling the need to seriously cultivate its fashion industry to accommodate and export its diverse pool of talent.
When it came to studying fashion, Ekari Debra Makunganya discovered one cannot study fashion full time and still have a social life, something had to give. Making a firm decision to pursue Fashion Design with a relentless focus, she named her brand “Wari” which stands for a warrior. The brand name embodies her vision and passion to create fashion that empowers people who are daring enough to wear her blend of quality, sustainable fashion with strong themes such as interpreting her vision of women in the next 50 years in dealing with the issue of gender-based violence. Studying Fashion Designing at Cape Town’s College of Fashion Design, where she did her foundation courses & graduated with a one-year certificate, Ekari learnt how to explore the artistic ways of infusing strong messages with various political, environmental and social influences through her designs.
“The theme of my collection for the final submission of my work was “Powerful but Peaceful” because I wanted to convey a message of strength in how women are not defined by what they have been through and that protesting for society to change its actions towards women doesn’t have to be angry and loud,” she says. She believes in the power women have in telling their stories, not as victims but as people taking charge of their destiny and putting an end to violence against women and men alike.
Before embarking on her journey of creating Wari, Ekari deeply appreciates her visits to her Grandma where the seed of using her hands creatively was first planted.
“My grandmother had manual sewing machines that I used to be so fascinated by. I used to watch her make sofa covers with embroidery on them back when I was growing up,” Ekari recalls. She remembers getting her experience by helping her with the process, even though sometimes she would make mistakes. Her grandmother was patient enough to fix it with her and that is how Ekari’s interest in fashion grew.
Not anticipating her love for fashion to grow, Ekari’s plan B was either studying a business administration or a marketing course since she wasn’t sure of what she wanted to do. Whilst taking a gap year after finishing high school, her mother suggested that explore the fashion avenue.
“My mother suggested that I decide between studying fashion design or interior design since I am pretty talented with my hands and creativity,” Ekari says. She was making handmade jewellery that incorporated beadwork, scrap fabrics and embroidery at the time. “My mom saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself at the time,” says Ekari. Traditionally, most parents want their children to become doctors, lawyers and accountants but she believes that challenging norms by diversifying the career options young people can go into, we would be creating a really vibrant community of young people who make a difference every day. Venturing into fashion design became a personal goal rooted in her wanting to contribute to making a difference in the world of fashion at home in Malawi, across Africa and the globe. Ekari encourages parents to nurture their children’s’ talents because they are more likely to succeed in doing something they are passionate and happy about.
“I found out about the Truworths Award and immediately set my sights on graduating with the award after completing my foundation year,” Ekari says. Keeping in mind the competitive nature and size of the fashion industry in South Africa, the Truworths Award signals a big achievement to the students who are awarded. It is given to one person out of 38 who produces the most fashionable, commercial range with Truworths making the final selection. Ekari admits to the course getting tougher with each year, remembering how she reached a breaking point in her third year where she questioned her ability to complete the course because of some of the obstacles she faced right down to the final two weeks before her graduation.
“Thinking about the sacrifices my family made, especially my mother, for me to reach my final year really put things into perspective for me and gave me the push I needed to finish,” Ekari says. If you’d asked her about fashion and winning a Truworths Award as the first Malawian to do so, four years ago, she says she would not have imagined it. She values the award as a major milestone as she further embarks on building her Wari brand with the goal of being a major player in the fashion industry in Malawi and the world at large.
Check Ekari Makunganya on:
Twitter : Wari_mw
Instagram : Wari_mw
Facebook : Wari_mw