Namibian fashion Designer | La Mode Fashions ("La Mode") – ADJOAA
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She Lits Everything Around Her: Meet the Namibian Designer Building an Empire of her own

Since 2008, La Mode Fashions ("La Mode"), a fashion company with roots in Namibia, has stood for flair and excellence. La Mode's designs are well created and have an opulent, exuberant flair that is rooted in an African "couture like" flair. 

The brand has a distinctive signature, all designs are crisp and vivacious; the art of exquisite simplicity—aptly called the "la mode effect"—is at the core of all creations.

From the casual tailoring to the built-to-last quality, use of natural materials, and ethical manufacture, these good ideas are evident at every level. La Mode wants to be a high-quality fashion company with an exceptional price-value proposition. 

‘‘The key is to represent market trends, freshness in colour, high-quality fabrics, and shapes in a carefree, laid-back, and comfortable La Mode manner’’

La Mode Fashions ("La Mode"),

We engaged Leah Misika, ‘Sleah’ founder of La Mode fashion to learn more about her inspiration for building the label and challenges in the Namibian fashion industry.

What inspired you to go into fashion design?

Over time the inspiration has definitely changed. At the age of 8 I believe I was intrigued by the fashion world I saw on FTV at the time.

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I loved watching the runways and listening to the designers do their interviews. At this point in my life I was just discovering that you could be a fashion designer. I also enjoyed watching what celebrities wore in music videos. I wanted those outfits.

I wanted to replicate them or make them. As I grew up, travelled and got more exposed, I was inspired by people and places from my travels. As I got into fashion and got an understanding for it, I realised making things was in my blood both on my maternal and paternal side.

But what drives me to create fashion is the notion that I can contribute to the idea of beauty and what it looks like.   

La Mode Fashions

What is the story behind your brand name or brand?

I have started so many brand names over the years and they have all related to my name. Our current Brand; Sleah is by far the most organic.

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It’s a name that started off as a joke, everytime someone would ask for my name I would respond; it’s Leah, because of my accent; it would sound like I was saying Sleah.

It's stuck as a nickname in the industry because I was well dressed and people would start calling me Sleah to mean ‘Fashion Slayer’. When I decided I would make it a brand, I wanted to give it more meaning and made it an abbreviation.

SLEAH now stands for ‘‘She Lit Everything Around Her’’; something we want people to say about you when you have left the room

 What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Gosh there have been so many highlights over the years it is so hard to pinpoint just one, with every new collection we release as a brand comes a new highlight.

For many it's just another collection drop, but for me it's my life, every release is a reminder that I’m living my dream in my country. Living my dream is the biggest highlight. It has never been about the accolades.

How different do you think the fashion industry in Namibia is today from when you first started?

It is so different. When I go back and read the things I would complain about back then, I cannot begin to tell you the transformation and face lift the industry has had.

I didn’t come without its downfalls but I remain faithful that all things find their place eventually. Patience is necessary, even if you are in a hurry.

What business wisdom do you have to share, especially for people looking to go into fashion in Namibia? 

If you want to build something, spend time in some business and be a sponge. If you do not have the discipline to do that, I hope you have the accumein and stamina to be a start up and be creative all at once.

Be ready to make a choice early on; are you going to build a business or are you going to design? Because very soon, right before the burn out, you will find that you actually cannot do it ALL for too long.

Give yourself grace and make room for mistakes. Take the L (lessons) and quickly remember why you started. And have fun! This is your life and passion. It's not supposed to be easy, but remember to not be so serious all the time.

Which other fashion brand is your favourite? 

Internationally; Coco Chanel is at the top of my list. I fell in love with their products, then I fell in love with the story.

They honestly can do no real wrong in my eyes as a brand. Continentally; I am a big fan of HOUSE OF STONE from Zimbabwe.

Her product is African luxury minus the print. If we were African royalty, I imagine that her fashion is all I’d wear.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges you face as a fashion designer both in Namibia and generally?

I’ve long left the pity party of OUR struggles, it truly isn’t serving us anymore to ruminate over things we cannot change. I now only focus on what I can do to not be a product of struggle. 

I remember a time when I used to problem solve for the industry and some things actually worked. Now? I use that same skill to problem solve for my brand.

I realised that the only way out is through, and if I want to help my industry in my country, I have to do it for myself first.

What is your background like, where did you start from?

I was born a spanky little girl on 26 December 1988 in Katima Mulilo, Namibia. Till this day, my mom recounts how I made the nurses upset when she walked into the hospital early in the morning; they were sad I didn’t come out on Christmas Day so they could get a Christmas baby. 

I was raised in a middle-class home. My parents worked for every little thing they owned and gave us. As a grown up now, I am not sure how they made it look so easy.

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I started my education in Windhoek, Namibia. After discovering FTV, I began designing as a hobby and making the designs for her dolls. Designing my older sister's prom dress was the first time I had seen my sketched design come to life.

However, I never considered Fashion Design as a career until she moved to Paris, France at the age of fourteen with her father; living in Paris reinforced my love for fashion, but I had already affirmed that I would be a lawyer first. I moved to Kampala, Uganda for my final years of highschool.

I began to pursue a law career by taking classes that would take me in that direction during the International Baccalaureate program. Living in Uganda, I was exposed to very crafty and artistic people.

This is where she met Sylvia Owori (East- African fashion designer), who made her realise that it wasn’t crazy for an African girl to be a designer and make it a career. I then decided to explore the fashion industry.

I earned my Bachelor in Fashion Design at Miami International University of Arts and Design in September 2010 and never looked back. As the founder of La Mode Fashions I now have a small studio in my hometown Katima Mulilo in a village setting.

I hope to weave the peace I live in now into the garments we make. It is truly my dream to see women shine, they deserve to look good and live a simple, soft and slow life. I want our clothes to this part of a woman's life.

La Mode Fashions

If you had to describe your brand in three words, what would it be?

Simple, Soft and Slow. A woman’s life is complicated enough, we want to make things she can wear with anything she already owns. We want to highlight her softness through colour choices, fabric textures and design.

We want to create garments that have a long shelf life.

How do you make sure to incorporate sustainable practices into your production processes? 

Sustainability is such a broad concept and it has taken us some time to figure out how we as a small brand can be sustainable. The best way we could contribute was tomake quality ready to wear garments.

We want to make clothes that have longer shelf life in our clients closet so we pay attention to design details and construction finishing.

We drop a very small collection and produce a limited amount of garments per drop. When it’s  sold out, we moved on. This is our way of slowing down fast fashion as a small brand.

What’s your one go-to style tip you can share with our community?

Keep it simple. I enjoy looking put together no matter what I do, so keeping it simple has always worked for me. Once you master the art of looking good no matter what you wear, then you can start enjoying the luxury of adding on more to style your look to your desire. 

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