A few years ago, Sharon Kadangwe and her friends founded the Winter Ankara Fashion Expo (WAFE), an annual event which shut down half of Blantyre City CBD and turned the streets into runways. WAFE has now culminated in a collective called The Creatives, a fashion events management company that is now a collective of fashion designers, models, photographers and artists.
Sharon Kadangwe is a super creative 22 year old from Blantyre, Malawi.
Despite limited opportunities and support to young women in the small landlocked country, Sharon chooses to use fashion to be a voice for young female entrepreneurs.
We had a quick chat with Sharon and this is how it went
They say first things first, so tell us, who is Sharon Kadangwe?
I am a poet, writer, model & entrepreneur from Blantyre, Malawi. Apart from obtaining a degree in Counselling Psychology, I am passionate about youth empowerment, the arts, social justice and social change.
Fashion is my first love. I have been modelling professionally since 2012. So far, I have appeared on the runways of Blantyre and Lilongwe, in several themed photoshoots and adverts for companies like Airtel and Nedbank.
How did you first become interested in fashion?
I have always been interested in fashion. Ever since I was a kid. I grew up exposed to diverse music and my love for music developed to a love of fashion and a love of the arts. I used to be a tomboy in secondary school, but after that I started experimenting with my look and my hair and that’s how I view fashion. Fashion is an experiment, each person is a scientist and so everyone can create something amazing.
What’s exciting about Malawi’s creative scene?
What’s most exciting is the time and the people that are embracing it. For Malawi, we are in the right time, the world is changing and it’s about time Malawi changes with it.
I keep meeting so many talented and diverse youth who are not only thinking about the present, but planning on expanding the arts to become an industry which everyone can benefit from. Some of the older generation and some parents are understanding and that’s a blessing, but we definitely need more and more people to believe in the youth and love our potential. We make up more than 80% of the population so I believe it’s an exciting time for the youth and the creative industry and this is only the beginning.
You founded the Winter Ankara Festival (WAFE), tell us more about it?
The idea of having this event started as a conversation between myself and Terrence Ngulube. We realized that most fashion shows in Malawi are based around the summer season, the lake and the capital city. We got another friend in the conversation and WAFE was founded. Years later, the three of us formed The Creatives, a fashion events management company that is now a collective of fashion designers, models, photographers and artists.
The aim of WAFE is to provide a platform for people in the fashion industry to network and connect while promoting youth entrepreneurship as most designers and models in Malawi are the youth.
We also have a CSR project called WAFE CARES, which is an initiative that aims to teach secondary school students about creative recycling and using their talents. We had our first WAFE CARES on 31st May at Zingwangwa Secondary School. It was encouraging to see that young people are interested in eco-friendly fashion.
Being young and female, share with us your experiences in a male dominated industry…
Plenty of discrimination. One thing I’ve learnt is that no matter what happens to me professionally, I have to rise above it. As a woman, I won’t cower or think less of myself just because of the problems that come with the territory. The only thing I can do, is to tell other young girls to be fearless, brave and confident.
Any last words…
No matter what happens to you, always believe in yourself. Cherish those who love you and support you unconditionally and learn to pick yourself up when you fall. It’s ok to make mistakes, it’s not ok to not learn from them. Most importantly, love God and love your neighbor.