99FM – Your Inspiration Station

Fashionable Namibia

“My style is Afrocentric and contemporary. My first collection was very European styled, back then I used to think African print is clichéd. Being from Africa and wearing African print, but at one point it hit me that: If you do your own, it will just come naturally to you.”

Ingo Shanyenge is designing himself into a position of one of Namibia’s hottest fashion designers to watch. Focused and clearly passionate about fashion, this is what young talent is all about. Judging by the delight in his ever growing fan base, Ingo seems to be fulfilling his dream of building his fashion brand locally.

Ingo99FM’s MYD Art sat down with the fashion designer, illustrator and activist, to talk about the emerging and pulsing Namibian fashion business.

“My dream is to build my brand and to one day be a Namibian success story. That is why I chose to come back.” Ingo went to school in Swakopmund, and as he explains it, “I took the creative path” and it showed early in life, “I did our grade 12 jackets in high school” he goes on “when I was finishing high school I started the brand ‘Small Boy’ because I felt we don’t have African brands that people can wear and feel pride about wearing. Our brands are western brands and while they are great, they are not ours. The brand is a silhouette of a young child, as a definition of young Africa. In Africa we are so talented but we are so enclosed, we don’t take the opportunity to shine. The brand embodied everyone. I did the logo and tested it on my friends and it did well.”

Ingo travelled to the UK after finishing school in Namibia and after a few twists in his career path went to study fashion. “It started to bother me that the t-shirts I was not making myself but buying already made and printing on top. Using the same t-shirts that every other t-shirt printer prints on, it’s just the design that is different. I wanted to be unique, to stand out. This is why I went to study fashion. I thought by studying fashion I would get all the knowhow on where to buy and how to source materials etc. This wasn’t the case.” he laughs “But it did open up my whole way of thinking and of designing.”

“I learnt in college about the design process of fashion. When you design, it’s the same as taking on a project. You can’t sit with a blank piece of paper and a pencil and start drawing something. The ideas just won’t flow. You have to go out in the field and source inspiration. Take pictures; look at designs, even architecture. Some fashion collections are based on architecture, for example.”

Ingo's work 2Ingo explains that learning about your craft is a way to get you to the end result faster, “You need to study the craft that you are in, as an artist it would be good for you to study other artists who really made a significant contribution to their art. How they compose their music, or write their lyrics for example. You can get inspired by the way they come to their end result. Those methods are short cuts in your own life.”

He explains the journey of what lead him to becoming an up-and-coming Namibian fashion designer, “After I studied, I showcased my work at the Brighton Fashion Week and people liked it. It was here that I decided that I needed to come home and set by business up.”

“It was humble beginnings, I started working from home and I did all of the local flea markets to get my brand out. Then one thing lead to another, people starting talking about my designs and business started to grow. Then I got an opportunity to rent a stall at the Incubator in the Katutura SME Centre.”

Ingo's work 3“I had started with men’s wear because I saw there was a need for men’s designers and tailored designs. But soon my female friends started asking me to design them dresses, and word spread from there. It’s been two years now and it’s growing.”

“My style is Afrocentric and contemporary. My first collection was very European styled, back then I used to think African print in clichéd. Being from Africa and wearing African print, but at one point it hit me that: If you do your own, it will just come naturally to you.”

“So now what I am doing is, I have got the African print which is my heritage and my background, but through my experiences, after having been in Europe, I add a contemporary cut to it. We are in Namibia and we can celebrate. Doesn’t mean you are off to a ceremony if you wear traditional print. We take on a lot from the west and this means we lose our identity.”

Ingo's work 1“I set off to be self-employed. To show other designers it can be done. You can work in your passion. You don’t need to have a side job; be an accountant and a fashion designer on the side.”

“Through putting your energy 100% in your work, it shows. People start coming to you. I’m not really known but people know my work. I have labelled by work.”

But ne notes that supporting our arts is good for our people and our economy, “We need to grow our people, create the market, buy our own products, and listen to our own music. We need to give our artists value.”

Ingo explains that for him it’s all about making the pieces, “I do this for passion. It’s not about the money; money comes as a reward afterwards. I love cutting the fabric, being in my studio. Creativity feeds your soul” he laughs as he adds; “I itch on a Sunday if I’m not on the studio.”


Take a look at Ingo’s work on his Instragram Page using the handle IngoShanyenge or take a look at his Facebook page by clicking here : Ingo Shanyenge