Kenyan fashion designer hones her skills in Australia
After three years running her business, Namour Designs, Julia Kibuga has decided to improve her skills. She has taken a year off and joined the Academy of Design in Australia’s Gold Coast City to study fashion.
Ms Kibuga is known for her unpredictable creations sometimes in full African fabric or mixed with softer and chic fabrics.
“The skills to be gained measure to international standards which means I can take my brand beyond the local market and compete at an international level,” she wrote in an email.
When she started out in 2010, she had no formal fashion training and most of her knowledge was acquired on the job. She got hold of a pattern book and with lots of practice got the hang of it.
Ms Kibuga had just graduated with a business degree from the United States International University (USIU) in 2011 when she started Namour Designs. It was borne out of passion which she says is why she hangs on even when the going gets tough. “I like to try out different things which is basically what fashion is about.”
Her designs are an expression of this energy and zest for life. They can be worn or be used to accessorise an outfit. She also stresses on individual style and custom-made clothes.
Her style drew the attention of the organisers of the popular reality TV show Tusker Project Fame where some of the contestants wore Namour.
“My style is a mixture of romantic and feminine. I love dresses and skirts— just about anything feminine which I always pair with a dramatic accessory to give it an edge,” she says.
The designer integrated the Ankara fabric into her work due to public demand, using it for details and embellishments. It is also another way of communicating her identity as an African designer, she adds.
Trends also partly influence her work as clients try to keep pace with global styles. She has diverse customers, most of whom are willing to experiment with different colours and prints.
“I love the way the fashion world seems to be looking back for inspiration. I also greatly appreciate the kind of recognition African fashion is gaining internationally,” Ms Kibuga wrote in her email.
Her latest collection, Lola, was showcased last year at the Fashion Fusion event. It mainly featured fancy dresses made from satin.
“Fashion design schools offer focused curricula that help to hone your skills for the exciting and challenging world of fashion. Everything flows and makes sense,” she says.
Training makes running a fashion business manageable and orderly. The course includes fashion illustration, trade sketching, fabric and pattern making, among other skills. She chose the school in Australia to give her brand an international outlook.
“I thought it would be a good idea to study outside Kenya. When I look at it in terms of content I think the school I chose has so much to offer and I will get further exposure to the industry,” she adds.
She is looking to expand to menswear and bridal collections. “With formal training I can a expand my offers. I also like the exposure I am getting for it really opens my mind to a whole new world of fashion.”
But it is no plain sailing— success takes hard work and determination. The more effort one puts in, the higher the chances of success which is reflected in the end product.
“It’s not something you do as a side job and expect to succeed. It goes beyond all the glitz and glamour like the media portrays it although they go hand in hand,” she says.
“My style will probably not change but the quality and outlook on fashion will.”