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Interview to fashion designer Doreen Mashika


Zanzibar; Doreen Mashika and her unique pieces designed for a confident and independent woman

Doreen Mashika, nominated for Accessories Designer of the Year at Swahili Fashion Week 2013, was born and raised in Tanzania, studied and worked in Switzerland. Inspired by a deep sense of affection for her homeland and the wealth of design possibilities in Africa, she returned to Tanzania and settled in Zanzibar to pursue her passion for design.

The talented designer opened the doors of her beautiful boutique in Stone Town where we met.

Doreen Mashika is a brand that represents confident and independent women. The outfits are handmade and in all sizes.

Maria Belén: What are you inspired by when creating the collection?

Doreen: - In all women. I don't really think about their condition or religion. I celebrate the body of every woman. In addition, each outfit in the collection represents their day-to-day life. That is why each design represents all women who feel confident and independent.

MB: Is the Islamic religion an obstacle to the brand?

D: - Not at all. Although, in Zanzibar the Islamic religion predominates. However, there are many Muslim women who wear the outfits, and they have confessed to me that they love the colours and details of each dress that is made.

MB: Who makes the outfits?

D: - They are handcrafted by a group of local women here in Zanzibar.

MB: How is your relationship with the women who work with you?

D: - Excellent, each one of them works in the atelier. Due to covid-19 they are now working from their homes. Definitely, women are more active when it comes to working than men and they also provide an important economic support for the family.

MB: Who is your favourite model?

D: - My daughter Nia is my favourite model. She is 15 years old and since she was little she has accompanied me at all events.

MB: What is your favourite outfit from the collection?

D: - My favourite outfit is the Stone Town dress with a loose design with many colours special for summer.

MB: Why have you decided to open the brand here in Stone Town, Zanzibar?

D: - Zanzibar is an island with a lot of history and that brings together many cultures; African, Indian, Arab culture as well as different tribes of Africa are concentrated. And of course I must mention the tourists who visit us from all over the world.

MB: What are your projects for the brand?

D: - In a few months the next collection of the brand will be at the South African Fashion Week in the city of Johannesburg. It will be an online event through all social platforms that will bring together many international designers.

MB: Do you want to conquer the European market?

D: - The brand is working online and shipping the products to Europe.

MB: What would you say to those women who admire you?

D: - I would tell them to keep working on their goals. The environment is never ready. And the longer you wait for the moment, the more it feeds your weakness. So do it now and don't wait.

Fashion and women's emancipation

Doreen Mashika partners with women's cooperatives in local villages to make her pieces by hand. Her work contributes to the emancipation of women while enhancing the potential of artisan know-how. In addition, it establishes close relationships with its employees and strives to pay decent wages and provide healthy working conditions, closely following all stages of the production process, paying special attention to knowing the origin of its raw materials. Efforts that largely justify the prices of his creations, which range between $ 70 and $ 400.

From Zanzibar to the world

Doreen resonates not only in the capital of Zanzibar, but also on world-famous fashion catwalks.

In 2017, Forbes magazine published an article under the title “Zanzibar's iconic designer”.

Voted “Zanzibar's Favorite Store” in 2011 by Vogue Magazine, his pieces with unique accents have earned him numerous awards; Accessory Designer 2012 at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in South Africa, same title at Swahili Fashion Week 2013 and winner of African Designer For Tomorrow in 2014.

In 2015, she participated in Salon Vogue during Berlin Fashion Week, which allowed her to collaborate with E-Bay. In this way, it has made a niche on the international scene by presenting its collection in particular on the website of the American brand: Anthropologie (older sister of the Urban Outfitters group).

In addition, his sophisticated style won over American politics; Former first lady Michelle Obama owns one of her bags, but the most important thing is that she sent her a letter of support for her social initiative.

Their shoes, bags and jewellery combine materials in a unique way: kitenge fabrics and beads with premium leathers and well-finished metal fittings, horn with precious metals, antique beads with brass, resulting in pieces of inspired and individual beauty.

The first fashion designer in Zanzibar

Although the fashion industry in Tanzania is growing, the designer is part of the female entrepreneurial spirit. By creating her brand, Doreen Mashika Zanzibar (DMZ), the first fashion brand registered with the island's Ministry of Information, sets out to be an example and wants to improve the life of her community. In this drive, the designer hopes to one day create fashion design schools to teach technical knowledge.

Doreen Mashika

From Switzerland to Zanzibar and with a determined personality that is part of the “the future is female” movement, her success is a source of inspiration for many women. Durability, simplicity and identity are expressed as a motto in its fabrics, as is the tradition of the khanga. Clothing is said to reflect our thoughts and character. By this criterion, Doreen Mashika is a committed brand, shining with elegance around the world.

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