APiF: Please introduce your business and your designs.
Maria Thundu: Sweet Life is a new, high-end accessories line featuring clutch purses that mix African wax fabric with leather and other durable materials – bringing you wearable, stylish and functional pieces to add to your wardrobe. We currently have three clutch designs available and clients can choose which fabric and leather combos they want. We plan to offer handbags in the near future and we will be introducing jewelry into our line soon.
APiF: How does your heritage inspire/influence your designs?
Maria: My mother had a carefully selected collection of African outfits that my sisters and I adored. I have always loved African prints, but have difficulty wearing them in full as I find them overwhelming. My love for accessories allows me to incorporate that love for the prints into my wardrobe on a smaller but still impactful scale.
APiF: If your label would be a person, what kind of person would it be?
Maria: A well-tailored, elegant person who dresses simply and uses accessories to highlight their outfit.
APiF: Fashion Finds: What is your favorite piece in your closet or of your collection and why?
Maria: I am obsessed with clutch bags – this leather ‘Tango’ clutch (left) which I bought when I lived in Thailand a few years ago, will always be my favorite. I love the richness and texture of it and the leather is so soft.
I also adore this chunky beaded necklace, made by two sisters, based in Ethiopia, who design jewelry. I am working with them on the pieces that will be available from Sweet Life, which will give me a chance to mix the best of my worlds: Malawi, where I am from, and Ethiopia, where I grew up.
APiF: How do you market your designs and how do you make them accessible to a global audience?
Maria: Currently, we sell at a local gallery in Lilongwe, Malawi – (La Galleria in Old Town Mall). As we are still new, our reach has yet to extend beyond where we are based. Fortunately, word of mouth has been very effective. We also have representation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (where some of the production takes place) and we are present on facebook as well.
APiF: Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry?
Maria: I am new to this, so from my experience so far: don’t try to do too many things at the same time. Focus on one thing and complete it well before moving on to the next. Explore. Inspire. Share.
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