Fashion designer talks innovation

26 April 2019 | Events

Having been conducting business in Ondangwa for the past 30 years, fashion designer Annelly Luaanda has seen it all.

The 50-year-old is on a mission to take her label to greater heights. Luaanda started from humble beginnings and has since made a name for herself in the fashion design industry.

She now operates from the Ondangwa Industrial Park where she employs 10 people. According to Luaanda, the town of Ondangwa has grown exponentially over the last years.

Luaanda graduated from the Rössing Foundation in 1989, but could not secure employment, largely due to a lack of experience.

But this did not deter her from gaining the experience required.

“I started sewing at the age of 10, by then my mother used to make traditional baby carriers and that is where I also started playing as a child, but later it grew into a hobby.

“After I completed grade 12, I could not secure an opportunity to go and study fashion design at a South African institution and I ended up at the Rössing Foundation,” said Luaanda.

“After I graduated I went back home and started sewing with my mother's machine. My mother introduced me to the market and I started getting customers to mend their worn clothes. Those people discovered I had skills and then they started bringing their items to be tailored.”

She added that in 1996 many customers, especially within Ondangwa, started coming to her business. Most of them were wedding planners and people selling second-hand clothes.

This huge demand resulted in her moving to the spacious Ondangwa Industrial Park.

Luaanda said business is about innovation and creativity and one cannot do the same thing over and over.

She said her first innovative project was making graduation gowns.

“In 2003 some graduates from the then Ongwediva College of Education approached me. They said they could only get graduation gowns from South Africa and they were very expensive.

“I took the opportunity and I started making them and the following year, enrolled nurses also started ordering theirs. From there I started taking marketing research seriously to identify what is needed in the community and see what I can offer,” said Luaanda.

In 2015, Luaanda also started designing school uniforms for local schools.

Luaanda added she did not get any financial support to start her business and had to solely rely on her own savings.

According to her, many fashion designers are faced with challenges such as access to proper facilities. She also advised the authorities to consider procuring modern machinery, which can be leased out to local designers to enable them to create jobs.

“There is money in the fashion and design business, but one needs to invest that money back into the business. The sewing machines that we started with have changed and today we are using modern technology. All this requires you to have money all the time to make sure that you keep up with the changes,” she said.

Luaanda advised young people to consider seizing opportunities that require them to acquire skills.

“All you need is to be honest to your customers, be serious with whatever you are doing and also use resources at your disposal to start.

“Also try to make use of opportunities like trade fairs to market your products or services.”

ILENI NANDJATO

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