Famous for her timeless designs, Anita Beryl Ahikiriza is the epitome of creativity. She is the self-made fashion designer who is making waves on Uganda’s fashion industry.
Beryl, the founder and owner of Beryl Qouture, located at Tirupati mall in Kabalagala, will mark five years in the fashion industry on December 6, 2015. Racheal Ninsiima had a chat with her on her style, major milestones and life.
Below are excerpts.
Please tell us about your formative years.
I was born to Rev and Mrs Ahabwe of Bushenyi district. I am the first-born child of six. I attended Bweranyangyi Girls for O and A-level and left in 2005.
I then joined Uganda Christian University, Mukono, for a Bachelor of Arts in Education, graduating in 2009. My childhood dream was to become a TV news anchor after watching Beatrice Okello of UBC.
She was my role model because she was articulate and smart. I asked my mother what I needed to become like her, and she advised me to pursue Literature and English. I did, and passed them highly, but then as I grew up, I realized that my interests were actually in fashion.
I knew that I needed to look polished all the time, and thus altered my clothes quite often. The obsession with looking different from others kicked in and has driven my work since.
What was your first job?
I have never been employed by anyone. After university, I joined UberGlam school of Fashion Design in South Africa and later went to Esmod fashion school in Dubai. In 2011, I started my own fashion house, House of Beryl, which is now called Beryl Qouture.
What, according to you, is the favorite part of being a fashion designer?
That moment you finish designing a costume and actually see someone wearing it. Ohhh!… the satisfaction that comes with it is indescribable. I get a lot of appreciation messages later and this client satisfaction is the best part.
I remember I made Barbra Itungo’s (Bobi Wine’s wife) bridal shower gown and she was so overwhelmed. To date, every time she has a function, she contacts me to make her some attire.
What inspires you while creating your designs?
As a fashion designer, I never have one source of inspiration. It could be something as simple as a cutlery holder or even my mood. For example, when I am depressed, I work well with soft colors such as pink.
How do you stay on top?
I read a lot and watch international fashion trendsetters. E-TV has become my go-to channel and I subscribe to newsletters from some of the trendsetters.
What has been your most memorable challenge?
At the inception of the business, I had trouble marketing myself. It started with my friend requesting me to make her a wedding dress, to which I obliged.
She loved the gown so much that she referred every other bride she knew to me. It was through referrals that I got to be known and I am humbled that it all started through a friend.
What is it like working for yourself?
Self-employment is very strenuous because it comes with pressures of paying tax and salaries.
Among my future plans is to have Beryl stores around Africa and also pursue masters and a doctorate in fashion.
What advice would you have for aspiring fashion designers?
Put prayer first, stick to your own style and be trustworthy. Many people have lost trust in fashion designers because they make promises they don’t keep, such as completing attires on time. The challenge is that many are looking for a quick buck and forget loyalty for the client.
An aspiring fashion designer should also be original. Let people buy you, not a duplicate of another person. Then, most important of all, humble yourself before God and let him use you.
How do you spend your free time?
I love to watch movies, especially love and Barbie animated movies. I also love to travel and cook. My favorite meal is matooke and eshabwe. But I also love meat.
So, is Beryl hooked to someone?
(Laughs coyly)… I would love to be seeing someone, but unfortunately I am not.