Budding designer returns to grow his brand locally
Posted Wednesday, August 22 2012 at 17:21
- Walji won the FAFA Insight (an emerging designers’ competition) since his return.
- Choosing to be known for couture — high-quality custom fitted garments where the designer pays a lot attention to detail — Mr Walji knows that he is taking a gamble as Kenyans prefer less “arty” clothes.
- Mr Walji’s target market is the middle and upper classes. Each and every piece has something special detail to it. He tends to manipulate the fabric to get different textures like smocking and tucks and embellishments of lace, brass plates, buttons and wooden beads.
- In 2011, he returned from Malaysia where he had gone to study fashion design.
Jamil Walji has captured attention with his bold designs. As one of the emerging local fashion designers, Mr Walji, who returned from Malaysia in 2011 where he had gone to study fashion, is an artiste to watch. His label— JW Couture— is already creating ripples.
His face lights up when he speaks about his venture: “JW Couture is a versatile label. I want people to keep anticipating and guessing what I will do next,” says the designer.
He has so far participated in and won the FAFA Insight (an emerging designers’ competition) since his return.
He is also set to take part in the Gala Night in November and the upcoming Trendz Kenya Fashion Festival. His objective, he says, is to “get his identity and name out there”.
“Since taking part in Fafa, JW Couture now has a face. I have done a lot of fashion spreads in local publications but my face was not there,” he says.
Walji has also created a Facebook page and through it got an invitation to participate in the Rwanda Fashion Week next month. He also expects his designs to hit the runway at the Swahili Fashion Week.
“I get a lot of inquiries (on Facebook) and people come to see my work at home. I have custom-made garments for bridal parties and other special occasions,” says Mr Walji.
He is a natural artiste. Apart from designing clothes, Walji also paints.
But he says he got interested in fashion back in high school in 2004 and chose it for his final project at A-levels.
His decision was purely economical. Being a painter would have meant working overtime to promote his art, especially in Kenya, as well as having to wait too long to sell his works.
“But someone wants to wear something new every day. It a daily necessity, so I decided to stick to fashion. I would still keep painting as a hobby and build on it on the side,” he says.
He got a distinction for his school project and lots of encouragement from his teacher to look at design as a career choice.
The teacher, Janet Nyakwemba, was the winner of the Reds African Fashion Designers Awards in 2005. She also encouraged him to take part in the student category of the competition.
Mr Walji later did an internship with KikoRomeo — a top local fashion house headed by Ann McCreath. He learnt how to combine fabrics and fittings — which is one of the leading business principle in his garment construction. “I feel that if a garment does not fit well its clumsy and clumpy”.
For two months, Mr Walji was assigned to design some menswear like shirts using African fabrics. He then left to study hair and beauty therapy which earned him employment for one- and-a- half years at Nairobi’s Farouk’s Salon.