At just 23, Hawa Adan Hassan, a university student in Somalia, is fast realizing her dream of becoming the best fashion designer in Africa.
Her clothing designs are inspired by Somalia’s heritage of dress, which she says she is rightly proud of.
Armed with scissors, she sits at her sewing machine bringing her imagination and creativity to life, developing original styles of clothing that are popular among the Somali community.
“I have always wanted to become a fashion designer. My passion has been to suit people of all races, ages and sizes.”
Adan spoke as her electric sewing machine made clanking sounds as the needle and thread penetrated a red fabric numerous times, fastening two pieces together.
“I have always wanted to make clothes affordable for all people. That is why I love my career choice. I have developed — I would call it — a sixth sense for patterns, style, color and texture.”
Adan’s customers come from all walks of life but are mainly women and youth from the Somali community.
“The Somali woman loves her culture. She wants to look good and wear what is in style, and that is why I am here,” she said with a chuckle while holding a piece of thread in her mouth.
She noted that her clothing sketches are as complex as they can get — “a real reflection of what my mind looks like.”
Future of fashion
Regarding her future prospects, Adan said she wants to change the fashion industry, from which she is earning a decent living.
“I want to remove barriers that are blocking the rise of young homegrown and self-made fashion designers in Somalia and East Africa.
“I want them to live and design clothes however they want, relying on their instincts and widening their creative space that will ensure the young Somali generation thrives.”
At this exact moment, “someone is talking about me now,” Adan said, then laughed, explaining that when she is busy sewing and the thread gets tangled into a knot, she believes someone is talking about her.
“Just a superstition,” she adds.
Aamina Dharwal is one of Hawa’s customers.
“I no longer import expensive clothes. I can give her a rough picture and I get a beautiful design. She makes my dreams come true.
“My son wanted to be a fashion designer, but the community shunned him, saying it is a woman’s job. We need to support our youth.”
Ahmed Dharwesh, a local resident, said “as long as the youth design morally accepted clothes, I will support them.”
Barkhado Axado, also a fashion designer, says “there is potential in the youth.”
“We just need support from the local leaders and the government. We don’t want our customers to be overseas but here in Somalia, here in Africa.”
Adan said that Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, is fast changing and people have been growing their businesses since the al-Shabaab militant group was driven out back in 2011.
“Despite a few attacks now and then, people are connected to the world. You can go swimming at beaches, hotels are full of people, and generally business is doing great.”
When not sewing, Adan is busy watching Turkish and Arabic television dramas and fashion series.
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