FROM MALAWI WITH LOVE: LILLY ALFONSO’s STORY
by Lynne Kayenne

This is an exciting time for Malawians; our very own Fashion designer has made it to Africa Fashion week here in London to showcase her collection that’s making a huge buzz in the homeland. This is history in the making for Malawi and for the very determined, ambitious, beautiful and talented Lilly Alfonso. Having done a sold out show in Malawi’s capital, designed a garment for the reigning miss Malawi’s dress for Miss world, Lilly is on top of the world. This weekend, the fashion elite of LANDAAAAN TOWN will be glaring at her work like a Hawk to see this designer’s signature, distinctive, creative garments and help get her closer to the fulfilment of her wildest Dreams.

Q: HOW ARE YOU FEELING ABOUT SHOWCASING YOUR COLLECTION AT AFRICA FASHION WEEK?

A: It’s an amazing feeling, I feel so blessed and happy that I got this far with my dream. It’s a dream come true but I am a bit anxious and scared but very excited about showcasing my collection here in London.

Q: HOW EXCITED ARE YOU ABOUT REPRESENTING THE MALAWIAN FASHION INDUSTRY?

A: I am looking forward to it, I am so excited. You see Malawi is a small country, having the opportunity and the honour to be involved in the biggest African fashion event held in the UK is a big deal and I know this is one of the things that will motivate many Malawians in arts to push themselves. A part of me feels that Malawians lack self- confidence which can hinder success; me being a part of AFWL will be one of the ways to inspire and encourage artists to believe in their Dreams and realise that everything is possible and it brings me great pleasure knowing that designing has been my Dream since I was a young girl.

Q: HOW DOES YOUR DESIGN PROCESS WORK? WHEN YOU GET AN INITIAL IDEA FOR A DESIGN, WHAT DO YOU DO NEXT?

A: My creative process starts with a pencil and paper – I start sketching. Last year, I got a lot of corrections of my sketches, to a point where some designs were not made until now. What this does is help me when times like this come as I don’t really worry about designing a garment from scratch because the designs are already there. Other times, I will compare two designs, put the two sketches together and end up producing an outfit.

Q: WHAT INSPIRES AND MOTIVATES YOU?

A: I get inspired by many things around me especially nature.All the support that my country is giving me provides me with motivation.

Q: WHICH WELL KNOWN DESIGNERS HAVE HAD THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOU AND HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK IT IS FOR UP AND COMING DESIGNERS TO LOOK TO SOME STANDARD OR EXAMPLES HIGHER THAN THEMSELVES?

A: A lot of South African designers inspire me, I also like Barbara Hulanicki from Italy. She’s got such an amazing story, her designs are really nice and I believe it is important to look for such standards, because it’s what makes you work hard and makes you aim higher.

Q: DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW THAT YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE WOULD BE TO DESIGN GLAMOROUS, ETHNIC STYLED, WESTERN INSPIRED CLOTHING FOR THE MODERN WOMAN?

A: I have been designing since I was a young girl but I never really thought I was a designer until I grew older after designing for more people and winning the Fashion Malawi Edition award as the best fashion designer. That’s also when I started putting so much effort into designing and pushing for more fashion related knowledge and information.


Q: THE MALAWIAN REACTION TOWARDS YOUR COLLECTION HAS BEEN EPIC, HOW DRIVEN ARE YOU TO ACHIEVE THE SAME SUCCESS ON A GLOBAL SCALE?

A: Once your country supports you the rest follows I.e. travelling. I think what makes my designs so popular is the Malawian  people and the  power of “word of the mouth”  these tools have really helped and managed to make the Lilly Alfonso brand better known in Malawi; that’s how I have managed to come this far.

Q: WHERE CAN THE GENERAL PUBLIC BUY YOUR DESIGNS?

A: At Ayub Mart shopping Mall in Malawi, I’m currently working on my website and now that I am here London, I am trying to organize other ways too. But for now, you can see some of my designs on facebook under Lilly by lilllies.

By Lynne Kayenne

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