The president on numerous occasions has come out to speak against the growing number of students pursuing ARTS at tertiary level institutes. At the recent Muni University graduation ceremony held earlier this year, he explained his dissatisfaction with the issue on the basis that Arts subjects weren’t as developmental or lucrative as science oriented disciplines both on an individual and societal level. This statement was met with a lot skepticism from Ugandans of all sectors who believed all students who passed through the education system were equipped with the vital skills to excel in life regardless of their profession or career.
To better understand the depth of the President’s claims we look to the western world-supposedly modernity’s epitome of civilization and development in the world, where the arts industry alone generates billions of dollars annually not just in the creation of arts but also in the preservation of it. Not only have the arts played a huge role in shaping society and creating modern day tradition, the arts culture transcends time by not only preserving history but further dictating the future in terms of what is deemed appealing and what is undesirable.
That aside, this website, Eagle Online caught up with an upcoming Ugandan Fashion designer Jojo Mawejje under the brand name Laletty & Co. based in Boston-Massachusetts and looking to setup shop in the heart of Kampala.
Eagle Online: Hello, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Jojo: Hi, my names are Jojo Mawejje, I was born here in Uganda but then we moved to the United States where I grew up. I am now a mother and fashion designer with the brand name is ‘LALETTY & Co”.
Eagle Online: Did you always grow up wanting to be a fashion designer?
Jojo: Actually no, I studied Neuro-psychology at college and was working before I took on the fashion industry. It sort of dropped on my lap and at first I was bit skeptical but I come from a family with a lot of seamstresses so I guess there was a bit of influence.
Eagle Online: Tell us a little about your journey to where you are at now?
Jojo: Well initially I started getting involved with the African culture and its traditions back when I was still in college, I organized a lot of the cultural expos and a few other gigs that brought awareness around diverse cultures and traditions around the world. This culminated I guess by making a few dresses and outfits for close friends and relatives during my free time and they really liked what I was doing so they kept nudging me towards the fashion industry as something I should take serious and after some time I started to actually really enjoy it and things went on from there.
Eagle Online: Was it easy breaking into the fashion industry and establishing the brand?
Jojo: When I decided to become a professional designer, Laletty was nothing more than one sewing machine, a basement and 700 dollars to spare. It was not easy being a single mother working a 9-5 job; this affected my work schedule and I found that I had no free time to create my designs. Managing all these aspects of a business was overwhelming and at one point I was completely burned out until I took a step back to assess the business and also bring on a few experts like Blue Dhow Partners who help me manage the nitty-gritty stuff.
Eagle Online: This sounds like a tough journey for you; how did you manage to get by and not give up?
Jojo: I owe it all to my Uncle (she begins to tear up), he was such a huge inspiration in my life and continues to be although he passed away. He taught me everything I know and would always tell me: “No matter where you are, you’re a seed; you have to grow-no matter where you are planted.” This and the values like: kindness, never settling and always aiming for the best has always kept me driven and purposeful in life.
Eagle Online: Beautiful, and, may he Rest in Peace. There are thousands of young African designers across the continent who join the industry each year, what do you think will make Laletty stand out amongst all?
Jojo: You know ‘Fashion is a mood’, moods dictate what we wear and so when I make designs I do it with the intention of bringing value to people. I want to make products that bring value to someone; when they wear my pieces-how do they feel? What emotions does it bring out of them?
Eagle Online: This is a rather inspirational journey, what plans do you have for the brand in the future?
Jojo: With time I hope the brand can become international and self sustainable, I’ve always wanted to set up shop in Uganda but I didn’t know how to but currently I’m trying out different local seamstresses that I can fit into the business. I also believe that the brand can do more than just make clothes, it can also solve many other problems in society like: sustainable income for women and with time I hope that Laletty can reduce the poverty levels in Uganda.
Eagle Online: Thank you so much for giving us a few minutes of your time, what can you tell the Ugandan audience and young designers out there trying to make it?
Jojo: I think giving up is not an option, it might be hard at first but eventually things fall in place and you find yourself moving.
Eagle Online: Thank you so much, when can we expect to see your brand in local stores?
Jojo: (laughs heartily) I can’t say for sure but we are working on that and hopefully by this year in the summer hopefully!