Fashion and Medicine are not industries that usually go together. To the degree we hear about their intersection, it is usually because a fashion celeb or model has abused health laws and requires immediate medical attention. For Tanzania’s Mustafa Hassanali, however, fashion and medicine share similarities, especially when it comes to the perseverance, diligence and skills it takes to be successful.
Over four years ago, Mustafa quit his job as a doctor to become a fashion designer! Today he is one of the leading designers in East Africa and Tanzania’s top designer. Mustafa is one of the many African designers participating in Pan-African, Arise Africa Fashion Week currently taking place in South Africa. In fact, his show takes place tomorrow Sunday, June 14th, 2009 at 6pm at the Pavillion Room, Sandton Convention Center in Johannessburg. Ladybrille’s Uduak Oduok caught up with the ex-doctor in this exclusive to briefly discuss his participation and of course his boldness in quitting medicine for fashion!
LADYBRILLE.com: Mustafa, you must be absolutely delighted to participate in AAFW. Share with us some of your emotions?
Mustafa: The emotions that ran through me when I got the invite from AFI to participate at the ARISE AFRICA FASHION WEEK? It was just a pure testament that I am recognized as a PAN AFRICAN DESIGNER.
LADYBRILLE.com: Where were you and what were you doing when you received the invitation to show?
Mustafa: I was actually just in between a bridal fitting and on the phone with a corporate client when an email bounced up from AFI. I had to excuse (myself) to read the e-mail . . . I jumped, screamed in my office and continued back to work as if nothing happened. . .
LADYBRILLE.com: You’ve been at the forefront of carving a space on Africa’s fashion map for Tanzania. Describe the current state of the design industry in Tanzania?
Mustafa: It is still in its infancy stage and (for me) as a parent to fashion in Tanzania, it is my responsibility to raise my children into the best of their abilities, and create a pathway for the success and steadfast future for them. . .
LADYBRILLE.com: How involved is the Tanzanian government with Tanzania’s design industry?
Mustafa: Sadly not (that involved). . . I think the government has more pressing and important issues, far more important than attending to the design Industry. But, the latter is the alternative employment and revenue creator for the government. “Ask not what the country can do for you but what you can do for your country” is the principle I live by uttered by a former American President.
LADYBRILLE.com: Does Tanzania have a fashion council?
Mustafa: Not yet, but as we grow so will the need for a fashion council.
LADYBRILLE.com: Let’s talk a bit more about you before we get into your designs. Tanzania has such diverse ethnicities and people: a sprinkle of Indian, Ethiopian and Kenyan. What’s your heritage?
Mustafa: My great great grandparent came from India. That is the only thing I know. . . I consider myself an AFRICAN.
LADYBRILLE.com: I know you left the medical profession, as a doctor, to become a designer. Why?
Mustafa: I was at crossroads (in my life) and decided to pursue my passion for fashion with the zeal and zest that I am going to create a fashion industry which shall not only be my butter and bread, but my jam too. Medicine gave me the background of being a well grounded human being and its disciplines, which I adhere to (till) today. I owe (it) to my parents. God rest their souls in eternal peace.
LADYBRILLE.com: Your shows have a reputation for “Wowing” your audience. Give us a teaser of what you will be showing for Arise Africa Fashion Week?
Mustafa: African Motifs, vibrancy of color, flow and movement of chiffon, ready to wear, easy to wear, simple yet classy (everything) with a lot of attitude.
LADYBRILLE.com: What would you say is your signature which will make you stand out at Africa Arise Africa Fashion Week?
Mustafa: The blings which have mostly been used in the accessories. . .You need to see it to believe.
LADYBRILLE.com: You appear flawless! So we will put a wrinkle in that. (laughs) Tell us something quirky about you! (laughs)
Mustafa: I wore Jeans for the first time in my life on April 28, 2009. I am yet to try and experience a full suit. I was 205 Kg as of October 2008. Now I wear a size 38 Jeans. That is 122KG. NOTE To all Restaurant chef and Waiters, “DONT ever mess up My Order. . .”
LADYBRILLE.com: (That is a BIG deal! Congratulations on your achievement!)
LADYBRILLE.com: What does it mean, to you, to be a brilliant designer?
Mustafa: It means being dynamic innovative, eclectic, a risk taker.
LADYBRILLE.com: Thank you Mustafa, have loads of fun making and presenting your collection at Africa Arise Fashion Week!
Mustafa: Uduak. . . Next time we need to get you down here so that we can both paint the Cold Jozi ORANGE!
LADYBRILLE.com: Yes, that will happen very soon! [laughs]
~Article by Uduak Oduok
Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.