'Fashion is who we are:' Designers of African heritage shine at Sask. show

The fashion show is in its second year.

Show is in its second year

These are some designs from last year's Sask. African Fashion show. (Submitted by Iryn Tushabe)

Both Fatouma Tshiswaka and Sandra Mushale were inspired by fashion from a young age.

They have watched their mothers sew, carefully mending and making clothes, since they were children.

Tshiswaka's mother would bring fabrics home for her, and she began making her own clothes.

"I would design, I would draw some stuff, I would show it to my mom [to see] if it was right," she said in conversation with Saskatchewan Weekend.

Mushale's mom is a tailor.

"I was fascinated just seeing how dedicated she was to sewing and making clothes," Mushale said.  

"That's when I really got the taste of fashion."

Journey to fashion

Both Mushale and Tshiswaka were born in Congo-Kinshasa and moved to the neighbouring Zambia, Mushale as a young teen and Tshiswaka when she was a young adult.  

Mushale almost became a nun but decided to pursue fashion after a session at a convent.

She says she loved the experience and working in the community and carried it with her, as she studied social work in university.

This year's show is showcasing four designers with African heritage. (Submitted by Iryn Tushabe)

She says when she went back home after the first session, she realized it wasn't a life for her.

"Ah! I need my wig, I need some lipstick," she laughed.

"And seeing the clothes my mom was making, I was like 'No, I think I belong here.'"

Her first collection launched in 2011.

Tshiswaka's father thought she should study nursing or medicine when it came time to decide what route to take for schooling, but she always knew she wanted to do fashion.

Another look from last year's inaugural show. (Submitted by Iryn Tushabe)

"I did the first year in school of nursing, and the second year I decided 'This is not what I want to do. I want to do designing,'" she said.

Tshiswaka went on to study fashion in university. Her first collection launched in 2012.

Showcasing their talent

Their creations will be on display at this year's Sask. African Fashion Show. It's on Saturday, Feb. 24, with dinner at 6 p.m. CST and the show at 7:30 p.m.. This is the second year the show has been going on.

"For me, fashion is a world. Fashion is what we are. Fashion is what we wear. We go everywhere with fashion," Tshiswaka said.

"We express ourselves through our creation."

Mushale agrees.

"It is important for the African community to know that, yes, this is a community that they can feel that they belong in and then they have access to things they like in terms of fashion," she said.  

"[In Saskatchewan,] there's still a lot of people who need to learn more about Africa ...  Shows like this display what Africa is, the beauty of Africa, the colours of Africa, the music of Africa.

"It is an important show for not only Africans, but the people of Saskatchewan and Regina."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend