|Article by Phylis Luganda
Published November 29, 2007
November 17, 2007 witnessed the launch of a 40-piece colourful fashion collection for the youth in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam. Dubbed ‘Ally Rehmtullah’s Prism Break: Release Your True Colours’, the collection was meant to be a symbol to the Woman of Today. The designer, Ally Rehmtullah, speaks to PHYLIS LUGANDA on his playful use of strong, solid, bright colours with a few black, grey and beige ones.
What is “Ally Rehmtullah’s Prism Break: Release Your True Colours” all about?
Ally Rehmtullah’s Prism Break was my new collection which was launched on November 17, 2007. It was a collection full of life. It had 40 pieces all of which were vibrant and loud. It was a very colourful and youthful collection. These were versatile pieces which could be worn anywhere any time. It was a symbol to the Woman of Today. It was a fun collection. The people who attended the launch enjoyed it as much as I loved creating it. The Tanzanian public realised that it was a very different kind of collection from what they are used to. Prism Break was a very dear collection to me. Every piece in that collection was my favourite.
What was the driving force behind this idea?
I just studied the market and wanted to give the public something unique and which I knew they were ready for. I tried using a lot of strong solid bright colours. A few pieces contained neutral earthy tones of materials like black, grey and beige.
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What do Tanzanians say about your work?
Many people say they appreciate my art. After the launch of PRISM BREAK the local media focused on me for two whole weeks. They said Ally Rehmtullah is the new man leading the fashion industry in Tanzania. Since then, I have been kept busy working on orders from my new collection. So it all means that Prism Break made a huge impact to the public.
How do you describe fashion in general?
Fashion can be defined as the hot happening trend of the present. It is usually the in thing. Fashion is how you would like to carry yourself during a particular time. Fashion tends to change with the environment around us like weather and atmosphere.
What attracted you to fashion design?
Since I was a little boy, I always loved drawing, painting and doing anything creative. As I grew up I realised I loved mixing colours. Furthermore I became a shopping addict who not only shopped for myself but also for my girlfriends. Eventually I decided to become a fashion designer. So now I mix colours and make people beautiful.
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For how long have you been designing?
I have been working as a fashion designer in Tanzania for a year now. I moved back to Tanzania in September 2006 after graduating from Lehigh College in Pennsylvania, USA.
For whom do you design?
My clients are ambassadors, singers, actresses and other local celebrities in Tanzania. I do a lot of wedding outfits as well, which I have now got a good market of.
Do Tanzanians value fashionable clothes?
Everyone values good outfits. I feel that people can trust me in making them attractive. My clients love my designs and appreciate them. And yes, Tanzanians do value fashionable clothes.
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Are your designs affordable to the person in the streets of Dar as Salaam?
Ally Rehmtullah’s designs consist of the best possible material and finishing to give the outfit the quality his clients require. I think my outfits are not expensive according to what I deliver. Any average person in Dar es Salaam can afford an Ally Rehmtullah’s outfit.
How does your work compare with that of designers in international fashion capitals like London, Paris, Rome, Milan and New York?
Ally Rehmtullah’s outfits contain unique Tanzanian/African touch. I feel that I have built up my own unique style which cannot be replicated by any other designers internationally or locally. When it comes to quality I don’t think there would be any difference between an Ally Rehmtullah’s outfit and a Gavin Raja’s outfit. I guarantee my clients on the quality of the product they are paying for.
Do you plan to relocate from Dar es Salaam?
Not any time soon. I have a lot of dreams to change Tanzania fashionwise. I would like to have a Tanzania Fashion Week. But I would not mind an opportunity to practice fashion abroad provided I promote Tanzanian fashion.
Are there any other designers in Tanzania?
Sure; all of them are pretty good in their own way.
What is your role as a fashion designer?
My role as a fashion designer is to make sure my clients get what they want and what they are paying for. My role is to promote Tanzanian fashion worldwide. My role is to have my country aware of the latest trends and style that is healthy for the public.
Why are you, a man, involved in fashion design that is usually associated with women?
I have never really thought of that. I always believed in doing what you love and enjoy doing. No one has ever said that fashion is only associated with women. I have always wanted to do fashion and now I am living my dream.
Is it possible to have a good design that is not necessarily fashionable?
A good design can be fashionable if it looks nice. I have a few ministers who always require full draped religious costumes and I give them what they want and they still look good in them. But that doesn’t mean they are not fashionable, they just have a different sense in defining their fashion. It is my job to give them the options of what is right for them and their style.
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How do you market yourself and your work to the world?
I usually try to market myself through my website, allysdesigns.com. Internet is something that is widely used worldwide and I think it’s doing the work for me. The mass media are pretty good in helping to spread the word around.
What challenges do you face in your work?
It is usually very difficult to find the right material in Dar es Salaam. Sometimes the colour is not right or the quality is not as good. So this way you have to import the material from abroad. This becomes difficult if you have a tight budget. Another big challenge that I face is to look for the right companies who are willing to finance a collection. Not many people believe in a whole fashion industry. They may love fashion but investing in it is something else.
Any disappointments so far?
What about achievements?
I have had the opportunity to represent Tanzania in Ireland’s Festaac Festival and Uganda’s Africa Tumefika project in one year. Representing my country abroad is a huge achievement for me and I am proud of it.
From your experience, what skills does one require to succeed in a career in the fashion industry?
An eye for colour, an eye for beauty and an eye for fashion.
Besides fashion design, what else do you do?
I am a graphic designer, and I teach art and design in a graphics institution during the morning hours. I like to keep myself busy.
Who is Ally Rehmtullah when he is not designing clothes?
Ally is a very simple, down-to-earth person. He loves meeting people and socialising. I love going out with my friends and reading. I sometimes can be a loner going to places, sitting and getting my inspiration and thoughts gathered together.
Say something about your family. Do they support you in your work?
I was born and brought up in a modern Indian Muslim family. I have one brother who is not doing fashion. My parents support me fully and they have stood by me during my struggle towards becoming one of the leading fashion designers in Tanzania.
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How old are you?
I am 21; I was born on January 18, 1986.
What are your plans in, say, the next two to three years?
I want to encourage the youth and other people to take fashion seriously. I want to represent Tanzania abroad. I want my designs to sell worldwide
All pictures courtesy of raqey.com