How These Bold Tanzanian Designers Are Diversifying Their Runway Models
"We feel that by diversifying our models, it brings the cultures together."
October 16, 2017 at 1:52 pm
On October 7th, at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, ILAVA: It Can Be Done held their first ever fashion show during LA Fashion week. “It was truly a dream come true to display our designs for a broader audience,” says Founder Rahel Mwitula Williams. As a social entrepreneur, she was born and raised in Tanzania, East Africa. She migrated to the USA with her family when she was 12 years old and believes that women entrepreneurs are key in enhancing overall community development.
According to WIlliams, this collections called the Lost Girls Collection was created in honor of girls in South Sudan. “As the Manager for Donor Relations with ELCA, Global Church I am helping to raise fund to build the health clinic in Juba that would serve this population. I am blessed to have a job and is connect to my passion.”
The CEO of ILAVA and Rahel’s sister, Mwasi Mwitula, was also born and raised in Tanzania, East Africa. Mwitula acknowledges that keeping the cultural aspect of their designs is important. “We want those who decide to represent their style with African print to respect and acknowledge culture.” Mwasi Mwitula migrated to the USA with her family when she was 13 years old and held her Tanzanian heritage near to her heart. Mwasi Mwitula acknowledges that keeping the cultural aspect of their designs is important.
The business partners displayed their stance on diversity at a recent fashion show during LA Fashion Week. When their modeling booking agent informed them that the models of color they requested were not available, they still moved forward. For Williams and Mwitula, though cultural representation is an important goal for their fashion line, they also welcome diversity. Their dream is for every women to have an African print in her closet just like the little black dress. "With this challenging political climate, it is easier to cling to what is comfortable, however, we feel that by diversifying our models, it brings the cultures together," the sister shared.
They aim to incorporate their culture into fashion and give back to their native country every chance. With a partnership with Msichina Initiative, ILAVA has donated bicycles in Lindi, Tanzania to assist girls living far from school from walking long distances.
While popular culture may see African attire as a trend, Rahel sees it as a lifestyle and a means to make positive impact. “There is room for all of us! Diversity is what we know and love,” says CEO Mwasi Mwitula. “With this challenging political and racial climate, it is easier to cling to what is comfortable. However, we feel that by diversifying our models, it brings the cultures together.”
To learn more about ILAVA: It Can Be Done, check out their website.