Traditional ceremonies like engagement parties, send-offs, and bridal showers in Malawi have one thing in common: dressing. Usually, the dressing has to have a traditional touch for both men and women, and 26-year-old Malawi designer Idrissa Usher Hussein is the answer to any design you've ever dreamt off.
At 26, Hussein, who is the founder and Manager of Climax Fashion Designs, a business he started in 2015 specializing in designing and sewing both male and female attire, has already grown into a household name with his peculiar designs.
Hussein says he started as a young tailor on a very small scale with US$100 in capital and a sewing machine he had bought in South Africa and another given to him by his father.
“In 2011, I went to South Africa to work as is common among most Malawians, while in South Africa, I convinced myself that the best thing for me to do was to learn designing skills, something I have had passion for since my childhood days.
Then I enrolled with Bow Africa Fashion; I was working while at the same time doing school. After I finished my education I decided to come back and open a tailoring shop. At first I was doing it at home but when my customers’ base was growing I had to find a shop.
I had a second hand ordinary sewing machine that I bought in South Africa and another one that was once used by my father. I had MWk75 000 (US$100) as capital, I used MWK50 000 (US$67) to pay for two months’ rent of a shop and MWK25 000 (US$33) for materials,” Hussein explained.
Hussein said that setting up the foundation for his business was not that easy and on multiple occasions he contemplated giving up due to some discouragements.
“It wasn’t easy at my age for people to trust me with their work,” Hussein said. “Also, finding good materials for my work at first wasn’t easy, and finally my mates were mocking me that I am running a business meant for older people and that was a huge discouragement for me to an extent I did not like my job such that I nearly quit.”
Since 2015, the Malawi designer has not looked back but continues to grow amid notable challenges affecting businesses in Malawi, like persistent power outages and competition from rival businesses.
“Since I let go of discouraging comments from friends, things are moving better and my life has changed for the better though some challenges still exist,” Hussein said.
He added, “Right now my business has grown. I do business with people across Malawi and sometimes I receive orders from outside Malawi, from South Africa to be specific.”
Hussein has not only created employment and a livelihood for himself, but he has managed to create employment for other youths as well. He said that currently he has managed to employ three youths, of which two are on permanent basis and one is learning the work.
His vision is to continue growing his business, while at the same time providing skills development as well as mentorship to youths who think they do not have the potential to achieve what he has achieved so that they embrace entrepreneurship.
Hussein believes that,“it is possible for Malawian youths to excel in business. All that is needed is hard work. I once doubted that it is not possible to develop into designing in Malawi but now I am a living example, all that is needed is concentration.”
“I am not yet satisfied where I am, my aim is to attain international recognition and take part in fashion shows. Until I reach that point I will keep on working hard,” he said.
Competition does not worry Hussein, as being good at what he does is his greatest weapon to defeat competition.
“I am good at both sides, men’s and ladies' clothes while others focus on one side, and also I make sure to do the job in time without disappointing my customers and I make sure I do the job to the satisfaction of my customers,” Hussein said. And that's why Hussein is taking the Malawi design industry by storm.