APiF: Please introduce your business and your designs.
Vanessa Mukasa: My label, Vanessa Mukasa, is about strong, stylish, cosmopolitan women from all walks of life. I love color and different texture in my work. My designs vary with what is inspiring me. With the Metropical Deluxe collection I was inspired by my urge to try to change the way Kente/wax print cotton was worn by the younger generation, and to inspire non-African women to wear it without it looking cliché.
APiF: Why did you choose a career in fashion?
Vanessa: Since I can remember I have been obsessed with fashion. At 8 or 9 years of age I already designed clothes and sent out mini newsletters together with friends based on our designs. My Dad would get me the latest Vogue and Elle and I would admire the photos and ad campaigns. When I reached secondary school (similar to High School), I did a work experience project at Storm Model Management. This gave me my first insight into the fashion industry and I loved every minute of it. Initially I was into PR and styling, but after I interned at Vivienne Westwood, I knew I had to design.
APiF: When and why did you start designing with African Prints and Fabrics?
Vanessa: I started using African fabrics in my last year of university. I would always collect different prints from various African fabric shops in London but would never do anything with them, until I came up with my graduate collection Metropical Deluxe. Although I love my African prints, I can’t use the material for the sake of using it. I only will be using them again when I have something unique to showcase. I would love to create my own wax print – maybe that is the way forward.
APiF: Fashion Finds – What is your favorite piece in your closet or of your collection and why?
Vanessa: My favorite piece in collection is the Green Eve dress, it embodies everything I wanted to portray with the collection as a whole: fun, bold and beautiful!
APiF: How do you market your designs and how do you make them accessible to a global audience?
Vanessa: I use a range of marketing tools. I am still learning the best approach here. I do a lot of shows to meet new clients; twitter and facebook are fantastic tools, too. My upcoming website is also a great way of marketing garments.
APiF: Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry?
Vanessa: Keep an open mind, be prepared to work super hard because it is not easy, but it is rewarding at the end of the day. Keep in mind what it is you want to achieve with your brand!
APiF: What are the next big events for you?
Vanessa: I will be at the Africa Fashion Week in New York and attend the South Africa Fashion Week later this year.
You can read the complete interview with Vanessa Mukasa in AfroElle (page 96).