Dorcas Kela Hasiciimbwe is a fashion designer, model born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia. Her passion for fashion started at a young age, and was cultivated by her mother, a nurse who was also very gifted with her hands. Her mother, amongst other things, was constantly baking, knitting or sewing, a few skills which Dorcas adopted from her watching her at home. Seeing the creative process of designing and sewing clothes unfold before her inspired Dorcas to become a fashion designer. Since the start of her journey into Fashion, Dorcas has continually excelled. At only 20 she entered the Annual Redds fashion awards and her designs were in among the top 10 designs from all over the country. This achievement boosted her confidence and encouraged her to pursue her dream to be a designer. Getting involved in the fashion scene in Zambia opened up opportunities to model, which she grabbed without hesitation.
She later realised she enjoyed modeling and it has become a second love. Whilst at Evelyn Hone College in 2008, she took part in her college pageant and was the second runner up and become a certified peer educator. This responsibility gave Dorcas the influential position to speak to the youth in Zambia about the effects of HIV/AIDS. At 21 she took part in Miss Zambiacompetition and was among the top 5. As she established herself as a model Dorcas moved into runway modeling becoming one of the top 10 models for the annual Zambia Fashion Week for three consecutive years before moving to London and later Paris.
In France, she became the Miss Zambia France representative. Dorcas gained a Fashion Design and Technology degree from the Olivier Gerval Fashion Design Institute Paris which she completed in 2015. Studying and Living in France also allowed Dorcas to satisfy her love for travel, a quality she inherited from her father who travelled extensively across Europe and the Americas. Dorcas enjoyed totally being immersed in a new culture. Her study of the French language and first-hand knowledge of life in France has inspired her students in a secondary school in Lusaka, where she has taken on the role as French teacher.
Dorcas is the CEO and Creative Director for a Fashion Brand called House of Adriel.
We had the opportunity to interview the talented fashionista.
KAPA KAUMBA: Take us through a typical day in the life of Kela?
Dorcas: This is difficult for me to answer, as my days are very different as I play with many different jobs.
My day as a teacher of French. Am up at 6am and usually get to work by 7.30am. I teach both my 8th and 9th graders in the day at different times. Depending on the time table I can leave work by 1pm or 4pm .I may have papers to grade/homework to mark or have to plan for class for the coming lesson. All my days end with me taking a bath and having dinner which I may or may not have cooked and me watching some TV before bed.
On a day when I’m on set (filming for TV) my day starts at 7am and hopefully get on location by 9/9.30am . I’m usually on set all day, if not half the day and spend the other half prepping and planning for coming episodes.
My day as a designer I try to wake up late, but I’m still up by 7am .If I’m working on a collection I can spend the day prepping and sometimes I may not even eat or take breaks until I reach my goal. Music is definitely a big part of my day as I use it while I work. I sketch quiet alot and watch alot of fashion tv. If am working on a collection I may have very late nights.
KAPA KAUMBA: Being both a fashion designer and a model, which do you find the most fulfillment in?
Dorcas: Wow that’s a very hard question. As an ambassador for Zambia it is such an honour for me (representing the country at an international beauty pageant), but as a designer I would describe a creation as something you have birthed into being. You spend hours imagining something, putting it on paper and hours creating it. Seeing the finished product gives me so much joy.
KAPA KAUMBA: I see, both disciplines are fulfilling in their own ways. Tell us, is there a difference in the way you prepare for runway modeling and a pageant?
Dorcas: Preparing for a runway show and a pageant are very different there is more time, money and effort involved in pageantry. A runway show is you showing up and walking the ramp with confidence. While a pageant goes beyond just a confident walk, you need to perfect your smile; your presence and personality. Usually it may take months to get in the right shape and also state if mind. You are not just presenting you as a brand, sometimes you prepare yourself to be the perfect reflection of your country because that’s the only way some people will know about where you come from.
KAPA KAUMBA: Pageantry sounds like a whole lot of pressure lol. Tell us about your experience at the Miss Lumiere international world 2017. What did you learn from that experience?
Dorcas: Miss lumiere was a great experience, I met some amazing girls, Singapore and Malaysia are beautiful countries. I was very inspired by how there are so many trees in Singapore and it would be nice if we as Zambians learnt something from ‘the garden city ‘. I learnt so much about the pageant industry and how it works. Success can be achieved if one has support from their country. On a lighter note, I learnt so much about how different food in Asia is; every time I travel I appreciate my home country even more. Zambia is beautiful, and Zambians are great people. It was a privilege to represent not just Zambia but Africa.
KAPA KAUMBA: That’s great. Do you feel models in Zambia get enough support when going for international pageants? What needs to be done?
Dorcas: Not at all. The government needs to realise the importance of pageantry and how it can benefit the tourism industry. As a model in an international pageant you can see the difference between the support given to the other girls and yourself. That support goes a very long way. We are ambassadors for our countries and every kind of support is needed, whether monetary pre event, a national costume etc. or just a like or share online really makes a big difference. We have many girls sacrificing their own funds in the name of putting Zambia on the map and yet Zambia is not supporting them. This should change.
KAPA KAUMBA: We definitely need to see a change in that. You gained a Fashion Design and Technology degree from the Olivier Gerval Fashion Design Institute in Paris, France. How has gaining that knowledge impacted your career?
Dorcas: There were alot of things I didn’t understand about the fashion process and the industry. Fashion school opens up your mind to possibility, it also prepares you for how to embark on your career. Where I am as a designer, I don’t think I would be if I didn’t attain knowledge from school. I had the gift and it (education) perfected it.
KAPA KAUMBA: A number of people believe a formal education is not necessary for one to become a fashion designer as one came learn or the job. What is your take on that?
Dorcas: Education is vital in any field. As I said above school perfected my craft. Alot of people don’t understand that there is a big difference between a tailor and a designer. Anyone can sew a piece together but that doesn’t make them a designer. Fashion design is not an easy course as most would presume. To attain my degree I had many sleepless nights but it was worth it in the end. My course was also not just fashion it was marketing, involving branding, the business of fashion, design, product and architecture design. It also included history mostly of fashion. Fashion was just a part of the entire course. I respect designers who have degrees because I know how hard it is to actually get one. Someone can be gifted but just imagine the hidden potential waiting to be unleashed, that’s what formal education does.
KAPA KAUMBA: Education really is important in all sectors. For someone who has never seen your designs, how would you describe your style? Do you have a favorite fabric that you use?
Dorcas: My design style is basically a reflection of my personal style and personality. It’s quite abstract; some would call it a fusion of the African and European styles, “Afro chic “, “European with an African touch “. I tend to create alot of capes and coats and jackets. I play alot with different polyester, jersey, even upholstery. There’s not much variety to find here so I can play with anything my machine can sew.
KAPA KAUMBA: That’s really interesting. Can you describe your creative process for us? Do you use any software to make your designs or is it done free hand?
Dorcas: The process, I think, separates the tailors from designers.
- Research of concept /theme this is basically what the entire collection is based on, from the form, the cut, the color pallet, the fabric, it all comes down to the theme of the collection
- Sketch’s on paper. Ideas for the form and of course the pieces.
3.After that the sketches are transferred to a computer highlighting the different fabrics used and colors etc.
- What in French we call ‘moulage'(drapping ) creating the ‘toile'(prototype) for the garments. Here you get to also understand how your fabric can fall on the finished garment.
- Creation of the garment in “tissu”(the fabric)
- Creation of the look book (photography of garments on models)
Your collection is complete.
Therefore you have used first free hand, then adobe software illustrator, Photoshop, in design for the creation of your books.
KAPA KAUMBA: Thanks for your insight. In Zambia, non-traditional jobs such as fashion design and modeling are at times, not taken seriously. Whereas in the western world people are able to make a comfortable living with them. Why do you think that is the case and what can be done to change that perception?
Dorcas: True models and designers make money abroad even more than the jobs that we in Zambia consider as good jobs e.g. law, medicine etc. Designers make alot of money. The problem here, I guess, is that our industry is very small, we are still growing. I think people don’t realise how fashion can grow the economy. We need to appreciate local designs and buy local.
KAPA KAUMBA: Yes we all need to support local. What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to peruse a career in the fashion industry?
Dorcas: My advice to someone getting in the industry of fashion, well as a designer, be ready to work hard, to have sleepless nights and some time spending money than actually making. You have to be passionate about you do otherwise the pressure can break you. But if it’s something you are passionate about you will persevere. As a model, never be afraid to follow your dream, never stop believing in yourself.
KAPA KAUMBA: Good advice. What career ambitions have you not yet achieved?
Dorcas: Wow here I have to be honest, there’re so many things that I had dreamed of that I have now achieved, maybe except my childhood dream of being an air hostess and marrying usher LOL.
I definitely intend to be the best in my field, I won’t settle for average. I will be an international designer, the next channel, the next Carolina Herrera. I have already showcased in other countries, my first exhibition was in Paris then here (Zambia), then Kenya and Malawi. I never despise my beginnings because I know God is taking me higher and higher.
KAPA KAUMBA: Yes! It’s important to aim high.What is your favorite thing to do when not working?
Dorcas: Sleeping and eating LOL I like to read, spend time with my close friends and family, watch movies or series.
KAPA KAUMBA: Lastly, what does the future hold for Dorcas Kela Hasiciimbwe?
Dorcas: Alot, my international career as a designer has just begin so there’s so much more of me coming your way.
Being appointed nation director for Zambia by the Miss Lumiere organisation Singapore, you will still here alot from me concerning the next Miss, Mr and Mrs Lumiere world international Zambia representatives. I’m getting into TV so I’m curious to see what becomes of that as well .
House of adriel and Dorcas Kela Hasiciimbwe are names that I hope will mean alot some day, that not just Zambia but Africa can be proud of.