Model….. what comes to mind is the svelte size zero figures, catwalks, high fashion and of course the G_L_A_M_O_U_R! And usually when we talk about Runway Fests, its all about the gorgeous models working the runway and less of the amazing superstars behind these events. With that said we decided to challenge the norm and spotlight a poet, writer, model and entrepreneur from Blantyre, Malawi who goes by the name Sharon Kadangwe.
Sharon has a degree in Counselling Psychology but is also passionate about fashion, arts and empowering girls. She has been modelling professionally since 2012 and has appeared in fashion shows in Blantyre and Lilongwe. Sharon has also appeared in several themed photoshoots and adverts for Airtel and Nedbank.
Her interest in the fashion industry grew beyond modelling over time as she became one of the founders of the Winter Ankara Fashion Expo (WAFE) an annual street fashion show which occurs in Blantyre and started in 2015.
Is it possible for a teen starting her modelling career to just breakthrough without undergoing a training of some sort?
It depends. In other circumstances some of the best models have just been scouted in the street. Scouted means they are seen by someone who works in the fashion industry and then from there their careers start, they then train as they work. Most international models start their careers like that, locally we have Jack Thunde who was scouted in South Africa.
You then have another group of models who make it because they are hard-working and passionate and they get training. In our industry, it’s not everyday that someone is scouted so you would have to train and practice if you want to find jobs as a model.
What makes WAFE different from other festivals?
Everything about WAFE is unique. The name is unique, where it occurs is unique and how we do it is unique. We are the first fashion show in the history of Malawi to be held on the street. The Winter Ankara Fashion Expo (WAFE) is an event that we created after we realized that most fashion shows in Malawi were centered around the capital city and the summer season.
We hold it at the end of July, which is the end of the cold/winter season in Malawi and we have it on Victoria Avenue. The reason why we chose that particular street is because of its history and the significance it has in the present day. We also wanted to have an event created by Blantyre, for Blantyre that anyone could enjoy.
Which is the most important, strong headliners or strong supporting acts?
Being someone who’s been on both sides (attending and planning an event) I would say headliners are important but supporting acts can also make or break the headliner. The tricky part is in finding both strong headliners and strong supporting acts at one event.
The aim of WAFE is also to promote youth entrepreneurship within the fashion industry. Is it going according to how you envisioned it?
Yes. It has. Response from the event so far has been positive not only from the attendees but the designers. We have been able to provide a platform for different types of designers, especially upcoming ones. Models we have auditioned and trained have gone on to parade in different shows and campaigns all over Malawi.
That’s what we wanted to do; give people a platform to people so that they grow and develop with the skills they learn and empower others to do the same and that chain keeps going until the industry expands and grows and I believe with time that will happen.You can't have competition without innovation - Sharon Kadangwe Click To Tweet
How competitive is the industry?
It’s competitive, challenging and slowly responds to change. I believe most of the competitiveness comes from selfish ambition and greed. If we had a lot more people willing to collaborate with others to grow the industry things would move at a faster pace.
But at the same time you can’t really call it competitive when people don’t come up with their own creative ideas they just copy what others do. You can’t have competition without innovation.
You’ve had much experience with festivals now. What seems to get easier with time?
Hahaha, I wouldn’t say 2 years is a lot of experience but I have definitely learnt a lot about myself, what I can do, how people think, how to work with others and how to talk to people from all walks of life. The only thing that becomes easier is seeing where you made mistakes and being willing and able to fix them. We have had a lot of disappointments and setbacks over the past 2 years and being able to pick yourself from that and forging ahead is also something that comes with time.
What doesn’t get easier is the same thing; experiencing a setback, making a mistake and getting disappointed. It goes both ways. Managing events is an unpredictable industry. You can plan everything to the last second but anything can happen. Nobody ever expects bad things to happen, but they do. What matters is how you deal with them
Can you share with us your greatest work related accomplishment
I have a few accomplishments that I’m proud of but at the top of my list would have to be featured on africa.com, I was given an opportunity to talk about WAFE and all the things I do.
I also performed poetry and gave a talk to female students at the S.H.E empowered retreat for girls last year. It was amazing to have such an opportunity, when I was in school I hoped for such events to happen and so I’m really glad I was able to share my story and my art to other young ladies.
Fun question! Do you ever talk to yourself? When and what do you say?
I really laughed out loud at this question so that’s one sign. Doesn’t everyone talk to themselves? I talk to myself everyday, all the time. Sometimes I might ignore someone and have a conversation with myself in my head.
It’s usually about my day, I ask myself questions, try to figure out if I did something wrong and how I fixed it or I’ll think about music I’ll listen to or I’ll come up with a poem or I’ll think about my past and my future.
It helps to talk to yourself, you won’t find anyone else on earth who will be as honest with you as you are with yourself.
What do you want Sharon Kadangwe to be remembered for?
On my birthday last year my mum wrote me a letter and she asked me a similar question, she asked what I would want written on my epitaph and I’ll use the same response I gave her
“A passionate believer who aspired to live the life of purpose which God intended for her. Romans 12:2”
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