Friday, 21 February 2014

The Michelle Obama swag in love-struck Dar


Vera Wang is a fashion icon who has dressed royalty and other women in high places, among them Michelle Obama. The designer’s profile rose even more among fashion enthusiasts in Africa, especially after she dressed the first black woman tenant of the White House.

 
Dar es Salaam. What are the chances that brides in wedding-struck Dar es Salaam and US First Lady Michelle Obama could have something in common? If you really want to know, look no further than the teeming second hand clothes markets in the city.
At the Kinondoni-Manyanya market in particular, one dealer likes to throw in the name Vera Wang, the famous fashion designer whose work, he says, is among his favourite.
But Amos Mtalima, 32, does not know who Vera Wang is nor does he dream of meeting her. All he cares about is that the name appears to move his merchandise fast.
Vera Wang is a fashion icon who has dressed royalty and other women in high places, among them Michelle Obama. The designer’s profile rose even more among fashion enthusiasts in Africa, especially after she dressed the first black woman tenant of the White House.
Mtalima is not entirely surprised when told exactly who Vera Wang is. He told The Citizen on Saturday:
“I knew she was a designer from the name tag on the clothes that we sell. I did not know, though, that she deals with such big people…only that many of our clients appear to like her label. For me, that was a cue to be on the look-out for a similar name tag whenever I go shopping.”
Mtalima is among the dealers now developing a niche selling second hand wedding gowns.
These are not quite the elegant dresses sold in high-end boutiques. You are more likely to find them hanging in stalls in not-so-clean surroundings.
Those who are familiar with the Kinondoni-Manyanya market will appreciate these dresses but, from a distance, a stranger would wonder if new brides could not do better. Yet local vendors are making a killing with second-hand wedding gowns. Reason? They are chic and cheap.
Mtalima has been selling these dresses for the past five years. The business is picking up rapidly, he says, with middle class trendsetters making up the bulk of new clients.
Word has spread so widely that boutique owners, even those serving the high end market, come calling.
When he started the business, the turn-out at his modest stall would be really low--mainly because of perceptions about second hand wedding clothes in those days. He adds: “Some considered them to be of use only to the underprivileged. Nowadays, I get orders from a wide range of customers, including those who call in advance for the right sizes.”