Fashion tourism hits the scene in Tanzania
With just over a week to go to the Swahili Fashion Week 2014, the seventh time that this fashion show is being held, the question of “Who is Mustafa Hassanali?” keeps coming up.
With just over a week to go to the Swahili Fashion Week 2014, the seventh time that this fashion show is being held, the question of “Who is Mustafa Hassanali?” keeps coming up. Tanzania’s premier fashion showcase is again being organized by 3610 and hosted by the Sea Cliff Hotel, and the who’s who of Tanzania’s business community are literally queuing up as sponsors, evidence of how popular Swahili Fashion Week has become over the years and how much sponsors will get in return over PR exposure and being linked to the event.
But back to the question. Mustafa Hassanali appears to be very keen and prompt when talking about his passion for fashion and the various events he has in the past organized in Tanzania and across 18 other African countries and as far as Italy, where he is putting Tanzania’s unique creations on the map. Twenty-nine cities have seen MH’s shows where, besides bringing his passion for fashion to bear, he has been his home country’s goodwill ambassador, helping to raise interest in visiting Tanzania, be it for fashion tourism or for the more conventional safari and beach tourism. Yet little is otherwise known about Mustafa the person, the brain behind the fashion juggernaut he has created over the past years and it is perhaps time, just 10 days away from the #SFW2014 to shed some light on who Mustafa Hassanali really is.
Born in June 1980, Mustafa went through the various stages of formal education, finished Primary and Secondary School, and then went on to study medicine, becoming a medical doctor.
Tongue in cheek, his passion for fashion then prevailed over healing bodies when he began to dress the human body up some 15 years ago, when in 1999, first as a hobby, he made his first big waves. That year’s Miss Tanzania, Hoyce Temu, wore his designer dress when she was crowned as Tanzania’s beauty queen and word has it that her dress must have played a role, instantly catapulting MH to fashion fame.
It was by no means a smooth ride though, as ups and downs shook hands on the way through the various doors, which closed and opened for MH until in 2008 when he then started what was to become Eastern Africa’s premier fashion event, often copied but never quite reached, the Swahili Fashion Week.
The UK’s New African Woman magazine named him as one of Africa’s top designers, while Msafiri, Kenya Airways’ inflight magazine, in a feature about him some time ago named him the “Count of Couture” – to be topped when Forbes included him as East Africa’s only fashion designer of notice in their Forbes Africa listings.
Apart from designing for renowned shows in the country like for the annual Miss Tanzania contest, corporate and television-based shows, and other high society events among others, Mustafa’s work has been highly appreciated at the international level. He has worked alongside Naomi Campbell who has modeled for him, as well as various celebrities and high profile leaders who have adorned his couture.
Mustafa Hassanali was also appointed by the Minister for Information, Youth, Culture and Sports to be part of the steering committee to search for Tanzania National Attire. He also has been the only designer to have been invited by the Tanzania Embassy in Sweden and Russia to celebrate the Tanzania mainland and the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar’s 50th anniversary in 2011 and 2014 respectively.
What adds a unique dimension to MH’s persona is his constant initiative in going out of the way, in supporting various charities such Breast Cancer Awareness and Violence against Women. In Zanzibar, he has supported the Zanzibar Mental Hospital. His medical background no doubt has influenced the establishment of his brand “Fashion 4 Health.”
Dar es Salaam may not yet be Milan, Paris, London, or New York, but for sure it is today THE city in Africa where a genuine African fashion scene has taken root and from where it has spread across the wider Eastern and Central African region. This is by and large thanks to Mustafa and his Herculean effort to put his own creations on the market and generally popularize East Africa’s fashion designs, designers, and their annual collections and put them under the global spotlight. He has literally traveled the fashion world’s key locations and showcased Swahili fashion from Johannesburg to Dakar, from Lusaka to Harare, to promote his collections and give African fashion a new face and a new name.
In fact, as a new trend, fashion tourism has begun to make an impact, as more and more people travel from the wider Eastern African region to see Swahili Fashion Week, and other such events, close up and personal, and besides travel, also buy and wear the dresses and accessories on show.
Now you all know a bit more about MH and his passion for fashion, but if this was not enough, get a ticket, come to the Swahili Fashion Week in Dar es Salaam from December 5-7 and, if lucky enough to get close to MH, ask him yourself another question or two about what makes him tick.