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A penny through play

Promising local fashion designer, Salmi Shilongo.

Promising local fashion designer, Salmi Shilongo.

The government and private sector often encourage young people to take the initiative in entrepreneurial activities for self-sustainability and this week, the Economist caught up with a young designer who is making her mark in the local fashion industry.
Having designed exclusive clothing for the likes of Seventh Edition Big Brother stars such as Jessica Shikeva for the eviction party, Salmi Weni Shilongo is no new face in the local fashion industry and has over the last couple of years proven herself worthy of recognition.
Shilongo, a third year accounting and financing student at the University of Namibia hails from Ongwediva where she said she first started her sewing career.
“My mother is a tailor and growing up, I was never too far from her. At first I made designs for the sake of sewing but after some practise and a hand from my mother, I started sewing clothing that I can actually wear and people would ask me where I bought my dress.”
A self-taught tailor, Shilongo has been sewing clothing of all patterns and designs for the past three years. “Ever since high school when I moved to Windhoek, I have been making clothing of all sorts for people from all walks of life and over time I would say I have grown in my ability. I provide a variety of options to clients from blazers, to cocktail dresses, matric farewell gowns and customised designs according to the specifications of the client.”
She said that with continuous growth in the local fashion industry and the desire for uniqueness, there is an almost constant demand for home-made tailoring as it brings out individuality. “One has that specific item of clothing which no one else has.” “The thing about tailored clothes that makes it so much better than store-bought clothing is that you get exactly what you want. It is like a dream come true because you see what you want in your head and now you actually have that item made just in the same way that you pictured it. I think that is the beauty to it.”
Shilongo said that her big break came when she took part in Himba In The Mix Show as it brought her a lot of exposure. Since then she has designed numerous gowns for modeling contestants in annual events such as the Polytechnic and UNAM beauty pageants. She has also designed and made gowns for local artist, Jozzy Shediva.
A true diva with brains in her own right, Shilongo said that tailoring is not only a means of self-sustainability but contributing to a true Namibian identity.
She said that although she wishes to expand, financing and office space is not an easy task and because of the nature of her studies as well, full-time tailoring is not an option. “Although I have a deep passion for tailoring, it’s a skill that I have that is not going anywhere. I have all my life to pursue greater growth as a designer and a stylist. While I’m concentrating on both my education and tailoring, my education is my first priority as it is immensely important.”

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