Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.



Fashion

July 2nd, 2012

Pooja Jeshang gets all Loved up with Delilah – DESIGNER INTERVIEW

Pooja Jeshang brand Saffron is a brand that uses a colourful palette of prints and an interesting use of cutlines. Her recent collection “…with love, Delilah”, is described by Pooja as being a collection ‘infused with alluring colors like electric pinks, tangy chameleon oranges, sea green floral wax print and blacks that will possibly have you falling in love with a seducing, delicate woman inside of you. The world could be mono tone, but with the bohemian chic arising, nothing could be more astonishing then infusing prints in everyday wear. “
After watching the growth of the brand over the last year, and being intrigued by the alluring lookbooks and professional photoshoots I thought its time to hear a bit more from the designer herself.
Read on to hear the story being the brand that is Saffron
AFG) How did you get started in fashion?
Pooja– I remember stitching clothes for my little dolls when I was little. Unfortunately you don’t have much expertise in that area of how to stitch a sewing machine, but you could use your little hands to hand stitch the panels together. I started off concentrating on textiles and fabric in my A-levels and mainly focused on different types of printing, mainly screen printing and tie and dye to be my favorite of all. Graduating from school, I decided very much I wanted to pursue a line in the the Arts. I studied my BTEC Foundation Diploma in Arts and Design at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BCU) Birmingham, UK. After 6 months through the pathway I decided I was really into Fashion Design and the whole idea of designing clothes to making the actual product. I pursued my degree in BA Fashion Design Hons and made my first collection titled “Empower.” The collection was inspired by past issues in society where there was a sharp contrast between men’s and women’s rights and by the changes regarding women in the past years and how they are no longer undermined as they live in a society where women are powerful and have the ability to do anything.After finishing my degree, I knew I definitely wanted to start my own label, gathering up the experience from my internship at Matthew Williamson, and also these three years of workmanship I had put into in my coursework. I decided to move to Tanzania, where I first participated in the Emerging Designers Competition, Swahili Fashion Week. I was selected as one of the Top 8 Emerging Designers and I showcased two outfits as directed by the brief given. In 2011 I produced my first capsule collection, using organic printed cottons locally sourced. The collection was named, “Jambo Afrika” and was showcased in Swahili Fashion Week 2011.

AFG) WHy did you start your own label?
Pooja – I started my own label, because I just wanted to experiment my own areas of talent. I wanted to put all my ideas through about whats womenswear to me and shape them and sell them. Ideally everything displayed on the runway is not all wearable. You want to wear something, look stylish but you also want to look comfortable in it but then of course the silhouettes can be innovative enough to fit in relatively with the silhouettes as you see on the runway. My SS 2012 Collection, “Jambo Afrika” was inspired by a source much closer to home which had a refreshing take on everyday basics and casual wear by using bold and vibrant African prints. Using contemporary designs and ideas and fusing them with African motifs to create a playful and flirty collection using bursts of bright colour teamed with a darker and alluring colour palette. Resort 2013, “…with love, Delilah” was more of a stronger feminine collection. It also had a stronger bold color palette which were inspired from color changing chameleons which have always inspired me strangely enough! As for the silhouettes, I gave the pieces a ultimate sensual and feminine look. Although my best innovation would have been my materials, following the trend from my last collection using organic cottons. I’ve always felt cotton is the best to work around with, and its comfortable and wearable. It makes my clients happy!

with love delilah – Pooja Jeshang

with love delilah – Pooja Jeshang

with love delilah – Pooja Jeshang

AFG) You use a lot of locally sourced textiles from east africa – how do you find the sourcing process – what are the pros and cons?
Pooja – Sourcing local textiles is sometimes easy, and sometimes not. You don’t always get the particular prints, and sometimes you do. The pro’s are they’re cotton and amazing to wear for any time of the day. They’re also cheap and you get 2-3 meters in the Tanzanian Kitenge, 6 meters in the exported Kitenge from Nigeria. But the con’s are, the qualities you get and the limitation of prints. There are two different qualities in the Khanga. One is very thin woven, the other is heavy so it’s properly woven and wont wear out just after one wash. You really have to be careful when selecting your fabrics. You also have to be print trend conscious, of what prints would look good on the collection you intend to make and whether it would go along in your colour palette or not. Man made synthetics are available, but I prefer to choose these exotic prints that are available to me locally.
AFG) How important is the concept ‘Made in Africa’ ‘Made in Ghana’ ‘Made in Tanzania’ ‘Made in Kenya’ to you and your label?
Pooja – Its not that much of an importance to me, as long as I get the quality and up to standard in my clothes which can be displayable on a rack in a store. And also I foresee that the people who work under me are in a good working environment, and properly looked after. However the concept of having “Made in Tanzania” will only bring Tanzania forward in terms of manufacturing clothes, the locals really do have talent in terms of tailoring! They probably would need more training in terms of pattern cutting professionally.

with love delilah – Pooja Jeshang

AFG) How important is sustainability and ethical fashion to your work?
Pooja– Sustainability and ethical fashion is important to me because I want to continue moving forward along those lines, using local knitted organic cottons such as Khanga’s and Kitenges. Also in the future I want to collaborate with fair trade registered factories that have good manufacturing as well as providing good working environments.

AFG) You have showcased at Swahili Fashion Week previously. Could you explain how relevant fashion shows are in Africa? or do you feel that there is more impact for African designers to showcase in international cities? 
Pooja – Swahili Fashion Week is a good start-up for Tanzania and the emerging creative industry. With a large source of textiles available, a lot of emerging designers are coming up and its providing them a platform to showcase on. It’s a good way to start-up and gain that little exposure, but there is certainly more impact for African Designers to showcase in international cities. It will certainly give them an experience and a half, to think outside of the box and refresh those western silhouettes into the african fashion we see here.
AFG) How do you see the movement of African fashion today? Is the recent popularity one that excites or concerns you?
Pooja– African Fashion is moving quite rapidly, and a lot of countries in Africa are getting involved in the fashion industry, apart from that it really does excite me about what may come in the future. Could Tanzania be next for Vogue? I hope so!

AFG) I am loving your textile print work and illustration pieces – are you working on any ideas to bring your own prints or illustration work into your collections?
Pooja – As far as I know, I do want to carry out my illustrations on my garments, although not anytime soon.
AFG) So instead of that, what are you future business plans? What can we expect from Pooja and the Saffron label in the near future?
Pooja – My future business plans, I plan to at least showcase a few shows internationally, and not just stick to African countries. My resort collection (recent one “…with love, Delilah.” ) was one of my best collection which I really loved. I happen to go with the flow, accepting surprises along my path. For my SS 2013, my theme will be simplicity, however taking a few concepts of pattern cutting of Japan and implementing in my garments, which I am working on at the moment (tough cutting and too much math, but the outcome is great!) I still aim to continue the usage of Kitenge, but love tie and dye. My color palette is again a little shocking, but primary colors are pretty much in for next year!
Well we look forward to what else Pooja brings and wish her all the best with it too.
To see more of her work do check out her website here: www.poojajeshang.com
Interviewer: Jacqueline Shaw







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