If you missed the ‘Alecool and D-Zaina’ fashion show at Cayenne recently, you should slap yourself do hard in the face until both your eyes begin tearing. It was an well-organised event. It was awesome! But the event was covered by many Ugandan Newspapers so you must have got a glimpse of what happened there by now. The runway was graced by models clad in designs courtesy of Alecool’s 2 thumbs up and D-Zaina. Today we unveil D-Zaina.
At 12, Zaina Riech Ahmed, alias D-Zaina, was baking a passion that has turned her into a guru of sorts. Unknowingly then, she cut and designed different fabrics which she wore and even gave to friends.
As teachers were busy teaching, UK-based D-Zaina, resorted to drawing different fashions and her report cards testified to this. They often read: “She could do better if she paid more attention”.
The comments notwithstanding, a career was brewing and D-Zaina followed her heart. She went for the fashion and not the theory of the classroom.
Now 25, D-Zaina is a graduate of Fashion Marketing and Textile Designs from the University of East London.
Today, she owns her own fashion brand, D-Zaina and a fashion shop, No. 223 at Equatorial Mall in Kampala.
Why the passion for fashion?
I do not have a choice because I love fashion and have been designing since I was 12 years. I am a creative person and I have always fiddled with fabrics and even sketched out what I would envision.
My first instinct with my love for fashion wasn’t from a superficial perspective. It started off as a personal interest and challenge to see how far I could stretch my creative abilities, how many items I could create with one piece of fabric, and in how many other ways I could recreate it with the same fabric.
Absolutely everything in my world started to revolve around art. I created things using my hands, and as I have grown older, I’ve started to understand why I was always a practical student in class.
The other single field I would be comfortable in is performing arts. Unfortunately, I had to choose only one course, either fashion or performing arts but not both. I chose the former.
How then did you start?
I started by customizing my own clothes, my friends’ and cousins’. This at first started as a silly idea. I put on mini fashion shows that turned out to be hugely successful.
Consequently, I was nominated for a BEFFTA Award in the best young designer category. This got me sponsors who helped with each show I did. I therefore started taking fashion more seriously, and chose to study it.
I learnt how to fashion forecast, how to trend, how to draw a collection and stick to it, how to pattern cut and finally, how to construct a garment without a thread hanging off it. The three years I spent studying fashion snapped me into the position of wanting to brand my own label and how to market myself in the most effective way.
How do you intend to make your fashion career bigger?
I want to showcase more so that I may create a fashion force here in Uganda. Thankfully, the fashion steam is already here. In the near future, I am looking at producing perfumes, lotions, make-up and purses.
Which jobs have you ventured in before fashion?
This is a part many may not know and to be honest, I am private about it. But I am a qualified maternity nurse.
Have you practised in this field yet?
Yes I have and still do. I am great with children especially those that are newly born till they are two years old. In fact, I am inspired to do something with infants in Uganda soon like having an infants’ school: that would be superb.
At the fashion show, I distributed samples of my lotion and the response I received was overwhelming.
I want a serious sealing of brand D-zaina.
What do you want to do in the near future?
I will be moving back to Uganda and hopefully, in the next five years, I will have established my empire. There are many projects that I am currently running in Uganda and I am excited about staying her
What is your worst fashion blunder?
I have quite never made a fashion blunder. If I did, then probably it was just a reflection of how I felt. There was a season when I wore coloured tights, mostly yellow and white but I think I still rocked.
Favourite pastime activities
I enjoy short trips and teaching. I like it when someone fully understands what I have taught them.
Advice you would give anyone venturing into business?
Always stay on track. Have a drawing board and always refer to it when lost. One saying I have learnt in Uganda is lemelako kimala nekikwatayo (Hang on, success eventually comes along.)
This article appeared in The Observer