“Finally, I’m starting to feel seen and it’s not because I was invisible before. I have always been passionate about what I do and my satisfaction is only in doing it well. I should have been noticed way back, but maybe the world around me just didn’t open their eyes wide enough,” says fashion designer Shirley Tusiime. The amazing budding fashion designer blows her trumpet as we discuss her journey through the fashion industry. But make no mistake to think of her as just any of those empty big talkers; Shirley has real work to back her words!
Charity Begins at Home
Born in Mbarara, Tumusiime has drawn so much inspiration from her childhood and lots of people but mostly her mum whose sense of style is comparable to that of the UK royal family, a touch of Royalty and elegance but mostly her mum’s decency always attracts her. “My other source of inspiration was my elder sister Pearl Doherty who brought youth class and trendy clothing to her wardrobe that made me admire them hence wanting to replicate them in my own way. Above all, as a model, whenever we dressed up for runways in all glamorous clothes, I always wished it were me dressing these models thus getting inspired to start my fashion and design company”, says Shirley.
Jack Of All Fashions
I design customized outfits for all occasions for both males and females be it casual or occasional clothes not excluding our young stars. I basically bring people’s ideas to reality with the touch of Shirley however I mainly promote African prints because I am a big believer in our heritage and culture and I love to see it come to life. You can always find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @ Shirley apparel. Shirley, who has a Bachelor’s degree in BBA from Uganda Christian University, Mukono began her fashion project (Shirley Apparel) officially in October 2019.” I didn’t do a professional course in fashion and design but did a few training sessions with some fashion Designers in Uganda in tailoring and Design, my journey has just begun”, she added on.
I chose fashion designing as a career because I was very passionate about it and honestly gifted and would love the world to share and indulge in this gift I have to offer. Fashion and Design complement my personality since I am social and friendly hence a great way of networking, making friends, and also getting more opportunities. Laughing, as she recalls various childhood memories, she looks back with gratitude for the support system she has found in close friends and family around her. Since there is plenty of room for progress in the fashion industry, starting this career as a junior role simply meant that I had plenty of room to grow as a professional, and along the way, I acquired a lot of skills and enhanced my knowledge about the fashion world hence improving my performance and confidence.
I love coming up with a concept, researching, designing a style on paper and watching it come to life. I also love discovering new trends since my business and personal interests cross over so when I am reading a fashion magazine or watching a fashion runway I am actually working because that’s what fashion is all about. I love engaging in my own designs because it gives me countless chances to prove my worth since I prefer being my own Boss.
CEO Shirley Apparel says that for one to become a successful designer, one should have various skills like; Communication skills, Time management skills, patience, consistency in making your own name, Creative skills, Knowledge of fashion trends, and a Competitive spirit. My pieces have become appealing to people because today people seem willing to dress a little bit differently from one another. I definitely see young people today making more effort in the way that they dress than young people did ten years ago. They are getting tired of just wearing a t-shirt and jeans every day and it’s great to see people express themselves more in what they wear. I now have more and new clients that have been recommended by my existing clients due to the good work done.
Challenges Part of the Ride
Besides the fact Shirley enjoys fashion and design, she has met some challenges like competition with already established existing brands. Building a name that people can trust and believe in is another huddle. Shirley says that patience is virtual; one needs to deal with clients who may not be exactly friendly or understanding. Moreover, the fashion industry has its booming seasons and it can be overwhelming in trying to meet everyone’s demands on time and their desires too hence there are seasons when it’s slow which makes it so challenging to keep up financially especially if you have overhead costs to meet up with. Some clients can be difficult to please, fashion designing is very demanding when meeting deadlines, and can harshly be criticized, she added on.
Looking towards the future, she does however remain hopeful that she will one day become one of the best Fashion Designers since she doesn’t design clothes but instead dreams that come to life.
We conclude the interview with Shirley showing me some of her beautiful work. “We must serve our community whilst doing anything” Shirley concludes. “There has to be a purpose behind your brand. Not to jump on a bandwagon but to actively strive towards an industry which truly works in harmony with the society it influences and the environment it inhabits.” This closing statement leaves me with hope and as I walk to the station I know that thanks to visionaries like Shirley, real change can happen and the positive future which we need to urgently strive towards is within reach if we learn from such attitudes, not just towards fashion and design but more importantly to life itself.