Winnie Ojanga, the Zurich-based Kenyan organiser of the Miss Kenya Swiss beauty pageant, has diversified into fashion design. Ojanga, who says she knew she wanted to become a fashion designer at the age of seven years, adds “As a young girl growing up, I remember paging though fashion magazines and getting fascinated with clothing and how they make people look good. I sewed my first skirt during my Home science practical lesson that emerged one of the best creations during the final year examinations.”
An apparently versatile woman, Ojanga ‘who attended St Albert’s Girls High School Ulanda in western Kenya’ has managed to complete accounting and finance studies at the Zurich Business School before moving on to the International School of Tourism and Management in Zürich while bringing up a young family and managing the Miss Kenya Swiss pageant.
However Ojanga who while in school in Kenya won the National Best Verse Speaking during the Kenya National Music Festivals, Best Actress Award at the Nyanza Provincial Drama Festivals and Exemplary Senior School Prefect Award, is now pursuing her dream in the US$157 billion a year international fashion industry.
“My beginning into the fashion industry happened when I took up the challenge of organising the Miss Kenya Swiss pageant which is a youth empowerment programme for young Kenya girls in Switzerland,” Ojanga says. “This pageant sought to give the young Kenyan females living in Switzerland a platform to show their talents, create role models that the younger generation could look up to, and also open doors for those young Kenyan females who wanted to pursue a career in fashion, modelling and beauty industry in Europe.”
The pageant, she says, was held alongside the Kenya Swiss Society gala dinner and dance. But the pageant has not taken place over the past two years due to what Ojanga explains as her extremely busy schedule. “We however hope to continue organising the event soon,” she says.
One of the most challenging things Ojanga says she faced was that “The Kenyan society in Switzerland is not big enough and so getting potential candidates was a challenge.”
Having launched the ‘Winnie Ojanga’s Creations’, she says her designs of evening wear and jewellery are ‘appreciated by a very large public internationally. My creations–made for phenomenal women, are not only made to measure couture fashions with unique twist of glamorous feel but are also ageless and timeless. I work with high end fabrics, and haute couture sewing techniques to achieve all my elegant, classy and breath-taking creations.’
Saying her “jewellery line is elegant, sophisticated, fine, beautiful and easy to wear,” Ojanga explains that this is “inspired by the memories and images of my childhood in Kenya that I combine with strong European antique art and design. Every piece of my creation is hand-made, thus making my designs unique.”
A believer that “nothing comes without hard work, persistence, determination and discipline,” Ojanga says she was mentored by a Swiss fashion designer who worked and trained her in her atelier to bring out her creative and innovative talents through learn-as-you-do practical method.
Though she says “Working with this Swiss fashion designer gave me the real life experience I needed,” Ojanga “who is also a member of the Association of International Fashion Industry Leaders in Europe” says she is completing formal training from the Fashion Design Institute. Some of her designs, she says, are gracing the catwalk of international fashion shows.
“I am currently working behind the scenes on my collection,” Ojanga says. “I am also designing for my clients privately besides working as a freelance designer.”