Talking Fashion: She has been designing for close to 10 years but only joined social media four years ago, and since then, Fatumah Asha’s brand has been blowing up. Hassan Ssentongo caught up with her.
You gave Kampala’s red carpet style a facelift as your gowns always land on best dressed lists. How do you come up with these designs and what is it like working with celebs?
Most of the times I come up with the designs because clients usually trust me to take the creative wheel. Others, prefer to collaborate, which is also an exciting experience. This is the same thing I do with bridal.
Working with celebrities does not feel any different from working with other clients. This is because they pay the same amount of money for the service, but the advantage is that they give exposure to my brand and that way it is a blessing and I thank God they all appreciate my work.
You once posted on your timeline a complaint about clients that owed you money. Does that happen a lot? What’s your pay up criteria?
It was a joke. I play a lot! But it was a friend’s story. Of course there are clients that do not like to pay yet they want good things. One thing about me is that you cannot take a garment without completing payment… never! I will share an experience where this girl cried and cried for me to give her a dress, promising to clear my money in a week’s time. She never paid and even blocked me. She taught me a lesson. Since then, I do not care if you are a friend or relative, you cannot take a dress without completing payment. I do not play with my money.
In your line of business, you must deal with difficult clients. Is there one who stands out?
Every now and then difficult clients come in. There are those that come with an impression that you won’t respect them because you work on ‘only celebrities’, so any slight misunderstanding they pull out the ‘Is it because I’m not a celebrity’ card. It is very annoying because I respect all my clients. I have not had a client that has pissed me off to the extent of not forgetting them. But it is not always a smooth sail. Some will like it and others will not. We just cannot impress everyone, however much we try. Even Jesus did everything he could, but what happened to him?
Being in an industry that thrives on competition, what prompted you to start Tesi Fashion School, knowing that some of your students can grow into your competition?
As much as I am super competitive, I do not fear competition. To me, fashion design is not all about making money, it is an art and every artist is different. I am also naturally a teacher. Coming from a family where my father is a teacher, and his dad was a teacher too, the spirit of passing on knowledge runs in my blood. Nothing gives me joy more than seeing my students thrive. I want them to become even better than me. I care so much about their excellence and taking Ugandan fashion to the next level. This is an industry that is not taken seriously, there is a budget every year for agriculture, tourism, minerals, and so on but the fashion industry is always ignored yet it can be a great career alternative for all those creative young people out there
Your brand is associated with pristine execution and perfection. Have you created a dress that either was a total fail or did not turn out right?
Oh my God, those are so many. The worst one was a purple dress I made for a client’s birthday. Gosh it looked soooo beautiful but I did not know the fabric was horrible. By the time she got to the venue, the dress had holes in every line stitched. She called me and said “Asha, I’m naked,” and she burst out into laughter. I rushed to the venue and gave her another dress.
Guilty pleasure… I have so many. I love travelling. I love classic music. I love watching old comedy series like Friends – I literally know all the words from season 1 to 10.
If you weren’t a designer… I’d most definitely be a teacher.
Ideal date… A movie night or night ride somewhere private on a resort.
Best colour… White and black.
Dream car… A 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I love jeeps and benzes so much. I am okay with model 1990 as long as it is a Jeep or Benz.
Dream destination… Cairo, Egypt. I have been planning to go to Egypt for over 10 years.