Meet the award winning designer -Azra Walji
When did you know you wanted to get into fashion?
From high school. I used to like arts and crafts lessons. So, textiles, design and fashion were things that I was interested in. When I reached my O-Levels I challenged myself by answering a fashion question and I got a good grade. From then on, I decided to further my studies in fashion.
Where did you go to University?
I studied fashion in Malaysia.
What’s your favourite part of being a fashion designer?
My favourite part has to be making women feel important and unique. I love making them feel like they can conquer the world. That is what makes me happy
What happened after university?
Upon graduating, I came back home and became an intern at KikoRomeo. From there, I started designing my own collection. Before I got a foothold in the industry, I entered competitions such as FAFA Insights. I emerged second at the FAFA Insights competition. Soon after, people started recognising my work.
What inspires you for your collections?
I work with diverse concepts. So, sometimes I get inspirations from tribe, culture, music or even emotions.
How many collections have you done since you started out as a fashion designer and which was your favourite one?
Since I started my career, I have done five collections. A favourite… well… each is special in its own way. If I had to pick one it would be my 2013 polka dot collection. I showcased it at FAFA. It was all about polka dots and the 60’s. it was really fun and edgy.
What’s your experience with the local fashion industry? Do you see it growing?
Yes, I see it growing. I think there are a few bumps along the way but the growth is evidently there.
Do you think we are way ahead of some of the African countries in terms of fashion?
Not ahead. Just there. I have been to West and South Africa and there is a huge difference.
Do you have any challenges as a Kenyan designer?
Yes I do. Second-hand clothing is my biggest competition. It slows down business.
You were one of the winners of this year’s Heineken Project which also took you to Lagos Fashion Week. How has that experience been for you?
The experience was really good. I met a lot of creatives through this project. Working in the workshop in Nairobi before going to Amsterdam was such an awesome learning experience. This was an amazing experience because we got to meet top African designers.
What was the one thing that you learnt from Lagos Fashion Week?
Generally, Lagos is very fashion forward. You will not see much of kitenge or African fabrics. They have actually modernised their culture. Which is a good thing. I found designers that I could relate with and who related to their own craftsmanship. There is a whole lot of diversity there but appreciation for your own culture is very important.
Do you work with other tailors?
For the time being, I work alone from home. I only do made-to-measure garments.
What are your plans for the future?
I would like my brand to be recognised in Africa and around the globe.
What advice would you give to young designers?
I would tell them that making it in the fashion industry is not that easy. It’s a great industry but you have to be ready for the critics and once you get through, there is a lot to learn. It’s a diverse industry, there is always room for growth. Also, never doubt yourself.