Here is my exclusive interview with one of Tanzania fashion designer, Sheria Ngowi who was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some of the questions that I had for him. He's such a sincere and down to earth guy. Enjoy the interview.
AW: Briefly introduce yourself
SN-Sheria Ngowi (Born as Walter Thomas Ngowi on October 1st, 1982 the second of five children). I am a Tanzanian fashion designer and Founder ofÂ the Sheria Ngowi Brand. I was raised in a middle-class family ofÂ the Late Mr. Thomas Kishari Ngowi and Mrs. Mary Mathias Kessy. My Father was a lawyer while my mother was a Bank Accountant. I studied Law but my career has taken the path of Fashion Designing.
AW: When did you start designing clothes, did you go to fashion school?
SN-My career famously began in 2008 when I debuted my designsÂ for both women and men under Brand name Sheria Na Mavazi in Mysore, India.In 2009, I launched my first professional collection under my own name Sheria Ngowi Designs and now in 2011,i launched ''Year of the Gentleman'' Collection was a dedication to my late father who was the driving force behind my love for fashion. I decided to focus on both genders at a time to ensure that I put my all into each of the collections and the women's collection is on the way.
-I never attended any Fashion School. However someone once said, â€œPractice makes perfectâ€œ. While that statement might not be completely true, I do believe that practice makes you better. If you're a designer, you should be designing things. But sometimes it can get very easy to get hung up in the minutia of work and life. And the best way to improve designs is to do the designs. Itâ€™s like Actors rehearse their lines until they learn them perfectly. Musicians practice their songs until every note is just right. Athletes practice their particular sport so they can excel. Ask any successful designer in the community about how they have succeeded and they will attribute much of their success to practice.
AW: Where do you get design ideas/inspiration from?
SN-Both my parents introduced me into the world of fashion because of their passion for it. I get my inspiration from a lot of things. It often evolves out of seeing a single button or fabric or trimming which triggers an idea for a design. I never spend a lot of time stressing about what sort of â€œthemeâ€ one of my collections is going to have. The ideas are always there and ready to flow when I start sketching. As you have probably seen by now my designs are heavily influenced by the 30s and 60s style.
AW: What makes your designs unique from other competing brands?
SN-Well ,my designs are heavily influenced by the past. So I blend modern trends with the classic vintage looks and incorporate numerous colors. That is the main difference, trying to be playful with menswear which is quite rare in the fashion world as of now.
AW: Do you design clothes for men or women only?
- Right now i decided to focus on both genders to make sure that I put my all into each of the collections and for the first time women's collection is on the way.
AW: Have you got plans to start designing clothes for women/men in future?
SN-Yes,Right now I am working on making both designing clothes on a large scale in conjunction with the opening of my flagship store in Dar- es- salaam soon before end of these year.
AW: What type of a person wears your clothes?
SN-Anyone and everyone because â€œMy fashion philosophy is similar to my philosophy on lifeâ€ The Idea behind Sheria Ngowi is that Fashion is more than the clothes you wear, itâ€™s a lifestyle. My goal is to give everyone, especially African men & women, a platform of inspiration. I showcase all things fashionable and stylish, so â€œstep out of your boundaries and try something newâ€
AW: How do you find the fashion industry in Tanzania and Africa? Is your work known worldwide?
SN-Fashion industry is definitely picking up in Tanzania and in Africa as well, However we still got a long way to go.We need to find a way to blend in our cultural roots and modern trends, and come up with our own style. We are definitely going places though.
I love the history of my brand I want to bring a modern twist and i have to move on. As the founder wouldn't still be repeating what i was doing from 2008-2011. I want to bring a fresh element to it while cultivating the true DNA of the brand. All aspects should be modern and fresh. Clothes are a communication tool and I want to create something special.
But these are just the beginning and there are more to come. There is no African designer that can compare with the likes of Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford and Ozwald Boateng who are at the helm of the largest luxury brands of the world. My aim is to at least spark interest and growth in the fashion industry in Tanzania and Africa as a whole and challenge these fashion superpowers because we have talent, all that we need is exposure and investment in the right areas. It will take us a lot of hard work and dedication to accomplish all this but I believe everything is possible when you have the right plan.
I see my brand being eligible to apply for all the important Fashion weeks hosted around the world and i am looking forward to being a part of it.My biggest wish is to have my name in an International Fashion Platform, so that my grand kids and their friends could see that it is okay to follow a belief and for my country to be proud of me as a Tanzanian."
AW: Who is your most influential fashion designer?
SN-Tom Ford, simply because he is solely responsible for the turnaround of one of the most stylish brands there is out there, Gucci. Other designers who deserve mention are Ozwald Boateng, Ralph Lauren,Paul Smith.
AW: If you had a chance to dress someone famous who would that be and why?
SN-I think US President Barack Obama is one of the most fashionable and fittest presidents we have seen. I think a lot of men are paying attention to how he dresses.
AW: Are your designs available to buy online?
SN-Soon this year I will launch my flagship store in Dar- es- salaam, followed by my official online store where customers will be able to purchase my products directly online. This will be done in conjunction with my fashion show which will be the first of its kind in Tanzania.
AW: Where do you see Sheria na mavazi designs in 5 years
SN-As i said it before i see my brand being eligible to apply for all the important Fashion weeks hosted around the world and i am looking forward to being a part of it.My biggest wish is to have my name in an International Fashion Platform, so that my grand kids and their friends could see that it is okay to follow a belief and for my country to be proud of me as a Tanzanian."
AW: What advice do you have for young men who want to be fashion designers?
SN-They should go deep inside themselves and find what they really love to do. If you do things from your heart you can make things happen. You can change the world because you have the power and the power comes from within you. They say that if you work hard everything is possible.
AW: What should we expect from your latest designs?
SN-Expect one of the best designs in Tanzania and Africa as a whole because i want to challenge these fashion superpowers because i have talent and yes soon i will be one of the best designer in the world,I Promise Because I believe Myself....Always.!
AW: Will you be attending the Africa Fashion week London?
AB: If yes: what should we be prepared to see?
SN-Wait and see.hah aha aha
AW: Thank you very much and all the best in your work.
SN-Thank you very much =(Shukurani sana) Alwand.
Designer Sheria Ngowi,
Founder & CEO of Sheria Ngowi.