Metropical Deluxe: Interview w/ Fashion Artist and Ugandan Princess, Vanessa Mukasa Wednesday 17 October, 2012

Vanessa Musaka Background

Editress’ Note: Imprints, our new monthly feature, profiles some of the most innovative Fashion Artists across the African continent. Imprints is curated by inspiring fashionista, MsK NY of the African Prints in Fashion Blog. This interview shares the work of Vanessa Mukasa, a princess from the Bonyoro Kitara Kingdom in Uganda, who studied under noted […]

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Editress’ Note: Imprints, our new monthly feature, profiles some of the most innovative Fashion Artists across the African continent. Imprints is curated by inspiring fashionista, MsK NY of the African Prints in Fashion Blog. This interview shares the work of Vanessa Mukasa, a princess from the Bonyoro Kitara Kingdom in Uganda, who studied under noted designers Vivienne Westwood and Osman.

Header Photo Credit: Avaloni Studios


MsK NY:  How would you describe your fashion brand?                                        

Vanessa Mukasa: My label, Vanessa Mukasa, is about strong, stylish, cosmopolitan women from all walks of life. I love color and different texture in my work. My designs vary with what is inspiring me. With the Metropical Deluxe collection I was inspired by my urge to try to change the way Kente-wax print cotton was worn by the younger generation, and to inspire non-African women to wear it without it looking cliché.

 

MsK: What is your cultural heritage?                                                                                  

Vanessa: I was born in Uganda and moved to the UK when I was 5 years old. My grandmother is a princess from the Bonyoro kingdom and my grandfather, Balamu J. Mukasa, was a politician, who started out as a teacher and was one of the first Ugandans to obtain a Masters from Yale University in the 1930’s. My heritage keeps me aspiring for more, always knowing I can do better.

 

MsK: Why did you choose a career in fashion?                                                                   

Vanessa: Since I can remember, I have been obsessed with fashion. At 8 or 9 years of age I already designed clothes and sent out mini newsletters together with friends based on our designs. My Dad would get me the latest Vogue and Elle and I would admire the photos and ad campaigns. When I reached secondary school, I did a work experience project at Storm Model Management. This gave me my first insight into the fashion industry and I loved every minute of it. Initially I was into PR and styling, but after I interned at Vivienne Westwood, I knew I had to design.

MsK: What inspired you to design with African prints and fabrics?

Vanessa: I started using African fabrics in my last year of university. I would always collect different prints from various African fabric shops in London but would never do anything with them, until I came up with my graduate collection “Metropical Deluxe.”

Although I love my African prints, I can’t use the material for the sake of using it. I will only be using them again when I have something unique to showcase. I would love to create my own wax print…maybe that is the way forward.

 

MsK: Who is your fashion idol?                                                                                              

Vanessa: My mother has always been my fashion idol! She looks effortlessly elegant and stylish no matter what she wears. She reaffirms my motto that it is not what you wear, but how you wear it. I remember when I was at primary school, my classmates were usually dreading to be picked-up by their parents for fear of embarrassment. I was always looking forward to my Mum picking me up, because she was well dressed, highly fashionable and charismatic.

Matthew Williamson is also a great idol of mine, his use of print and color is something that I adore. I always find his collections exciting with intricate use of beads and color which is powerful.

 

MsK: Let’s talk “Fashion Finds”: What is your favorite piece in your closet or of your collection?                                                                                                                     

Vanessa: My favorite piece in my collection is the Green Eve dress, it embodies everything I wanted to portray with the collection as a whole: fun, bold and beautiful!

 

MsK: Which collections are you working on right now?                                                                                               

Vanessa: Right now I am working on two collections simultaneously, which is new for me at this stage in my career. Without giving too much away, the theme of one collection are African birds and the nature that surrounds Africa.  The second theme is around my family heritage. Being from the Bonyoro Kingdom in Uganda, I want to create a powerful collection to show the strength of my people and hopefully divert some attention to their plight through the medium of fashion.

 

MsK: Please finish this sentence: “Designers from the African Diaspora will ……”

Vanessa: Redefine what it means to be a fashion designer in Africa. Sometimes in Africa being a tailor and being a fashion designer is the same thing. Our continent is so rich, in many ways, so it is about time we pioneered in fashion and not rely so much on the West.

As an Ugandan Designer, I want to inspire young people in Uganda and, most importantly, young women to aspire be entrepreneurs as to change their destiny through hard work and books instead of a quick fix that doesn’t last.

 

MsK: What advice would you give new designers and start-ups in the fashion industry?

Vanessa: Keep an open mind, be prepared to work super hard because it is not easy, but it is rewarding at the end of the day. Keep in mind what it is you want to achieve with your brand!

Learn more about Vanessa’s fashions:
w: www.vanessamukasa.com <- Coming soon!
f: www.facebook.com/vanessamukasa
t: @vanessamukasa

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