Mavis Dube
From everyday casual to formal wear, sport gear, cocktail attire and even pyjamas people wear clothes every day.

Clothes allow people to differentiate various events in their lives, instill a sense of confidence, are a form of self-expression and, at the very least, cover our bodies.

The fashion industry, responsible for the manufacturing and distribution of clothing, is consequently a gold mine which employs millions of people around the world.

It was for these reasons and countless more that a local organisation has decided to venture into the industry.

But this time it’s doing so to empower unemployed women by teaching them beneficial skills to generate their own income in order to support their families and also to give them a platform to shine.

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The MADWOMEN programme is an initiative that was started by the AMEN Fashion label, established in 2012 by Abiah Mahlase and Bradley Muttitt.

Together with the City of Joburg, the initiative selected 28 unemployed women from Hillbrow and Cosmo City and taught them essential skills.

The four-day course, which was held last month, covered various elements including visual and textile studies, pattern making, garment construction and fashion retail.

Mshayisa Buyi.

During the workshop, the women gained practical skills by making items such as hand-bags, skirts, dresses, tops and trousers.

During a recent photo shoot at the Bertrams Inner City Farm in Joburg, the women posed in their appealing designs.

As pictured, this included a splash of colour on maxi dresses, high-waisted skirts and graphic blouses paired with doeks, which added an interesting element to their looks.

They also learnt fashion theory by attending lectures and studied manuals while also having access to fashion-related learning resources such as textbooks, journals and magazines.

Refilowe Mbatha.

In addition, the group were taught entrepreneurial skills and what fashion retail entails so they could venture into the industry by themselves.

After working hard to perfect their crafts, the group will now take part in Malawi Fashion Week at the end of the month.

“The MADWOMEN brand would like to use Malawi Fashion Week as a platform to showcase the workmanship of these women, as well as to further equip them with the skills required in order to produce fashion products that can be sold at a variety of retail outlets,” said Muttitt.

He explained that the programme seeks to achieve a number of objectives. Among these were creating local garments, which in turn would create employment.

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Muttitt said there was a gap in the market for women to participate in such initiatives.

“The purpose of the initiative was for women empowerment and the lack of programmes available for women to use their creative talents as a form of sustainability.”

He added that Africa had a diverse range of cultures and personalities which could translate into striking and unusual designs.

Despite this, he believes that Africa is not widely regarded as a fashion destination compared to New York, London, Paris and Milan.

Mavis Dube.

“MADWOMEN seeks to inspire a generation of African women to be worldwide women and to produce locally handmade products for export to Africa and the fashion capitals of the world,” said Muttitt.

In an effort to raise funds for the women to travel to and participate in Malawi Fashion Week, the MADWOMEN team are currently fundraising for the women by selling bags, scarves and garments which the group made themselves.

Those who would like to assist can contact 082 332 8412 or [email protected] for sponsorships, fabrics or time.