From small town girl to Forbes Magazine
Hailing from Tsumeb, Easter Leah Manasse alocal designer bid her time to become one top designers and director at Angola’s Atelier Nadir Tati, one of the biggest fashion houses in Southern Africa. Having dressed Angolan first lady, Anna Paula Dos Santos, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Angolan music stars, Ola Perola and Yola Semedo the sky is her only limit.
How did you get started in fashion design?
Started at a very young age with inspiration from my grandmother and Jem and the Holograms cartoon.
At what point did you realise you could do this professionally?
As a kid I wasn’t really aware that one could actually make a living from this, I just loved creating ideas and storing them in my file. When I grew older I realised that I could actually make a career out of something I really LOVED.
What profession did you want to pursue as a child?
I always wanted to be a designer, from a very young age, I’ve watched my grandmother make clothes and my passion just kept growing, I never for once pictured myself doing anything else.
How long does it take you to come up with the concept of a dress and design it?
I’m such a perfectionist it sometimes takes me 2 days to come up with an idea.
How is life in Angolan and what is your favourite part about it?
Angola may not be a tourist attraction but one thing is for sure, there are lots of opportunities here.
Aside from a few like Hem, do you think there are opportunities for designers in Namibia or do most have to leave the country to make a living off it?
Opportunities are there to be tapped into, especially now that Namibians are becoming more open to unique trends and self-expressions.
The laymen often say clothes exhibited at fashion festivals are over the top and can’t be worn in everyday life, how do you respond?
The fashion industry is a niche market, you get the avant-garde (which is as they say “over the top and not to be worn”) as well as others such as bridal, lingerie, etc... People get confused and think everything they see on runways is to be worn in an everyday life. It’s the same as painters, some paintings are easy to read and some are a complete mess that you barely understand. Sometimes we create these “over the top” pieces to show our artistic side, it’s a form of self-expression and at times you get people that truly understand it, for example Lady Gaga a big fan of Alexander McQueen, who was known for his outrageous over the top pieces.
A lot of your designers have an African feel (theme), is that deliberate?
I work for Nadir Tati who is known for her ethos of always using African themes in her designs. My work is to incorporate the company’s signature African style in every idea I create.
Who would you like to design for one day?
Our newly elected President and First Lady.
Do you think designers and models for plus size women/men will ever be as famous as the Dolce and Gabbana’s of the world?
Most definitely, the world is changing and people are making way for new things as well as what is perceived to be an abomination to fashion.
What do you think of the quality of local designers?
Our local designers are very talented individuals, and you can tell they put in a lot of work in what they do. It’s very impressive.
People have complained about aspects of the fashion design world being racist, how has your experience been?
I have never experienced it, and I do not think it’s that serious anymore because if you look at the fashion world now and then, there is a big difference. More and more people of different racial backgrounds are being recognised for their work and getting more jobs, for example Joan Smalls, Maria Borges(from Angola), just to name a few.
Who is your favourite local designer?
Who is your local (Namibia) celebrity crush?
Male or female? Hahaha. Oh they are many.
What was the naughtiest thing you did as a teenager?
That’s a tricky question. Well my friends and I sneaked out of the hostel at night to attend a dance a neighbouring school was hosting.
Describe a nightmare date?
Ending up ordering more than what we could afford.
With Trey Songz coming to perform here next month, what do you make of some guys not wanting their girlfriends to go to the show?
They are probably just intimidated by him.
What has been your proudest career moment?
When the pieces I designed were featured in Forbes and on bbc.com
Where would you like to be in three years?
Back home, having my own atelier and showcasing at the world’s biggest fashion events.
by Andreas Kathindi