Known for their expressive Afrocentric fashion feel and retro clothing, siblings Tjay and Debbie Chirwa of Homegrown Lifestyle are on a mission to form and transform Malawi’s promising fashion industry.
It began as an experiment mixing African print, or chitenje as it’s known in the local language and grew into a fashion powerhouse. “We just wanted to do hip,trendy and boundary-pushing clothing with an African touch as well ALL sorts of vintage clothing.”
The duo’s diverse, stylish and out-of-the-box artistry has given them platforms on runways in New York and Johannesburg, along with recognition by a number of influential international bloggers.
‘There’s a bigger need for young passionate Africans to develop style, how people present themselves can bring about limitless opportunities,” explains Tjay.
“Our designs are inspired by the streets, we love traveling around Malawi, and just seeing how people are wearing gives us a point of view on what our next collection should be about.Loving fashion in general makes it easier to spot the smallest details on people’s clothing, things that the person might not even notice, so that’s how we get inspired in general,” explained Tj in one interview.
Debbie has a fashion and designing diploma, while Tjay is studying business management.
Coming from a place of limited resources, the pair have been active in helping their community by running free design and tailoring camps, as well as sourcing skills and materials from local suppliers. “At the end of the day, we have to be sustainable while making money”, says Debbie.
The company isn’t limited to just fashion design, they also plan on venturing into fashion blogging, as well as other services like image and wardrobe consulting, fashion styling, and visual presentation.
When it comes to their personal style, or swag as Tjay calls it, Debbie likes her clothes with a touch of retro, saggy, and quirky. “Fashion should not just make a statement, it should shout,” she says.
Tjay prefers simplicity.“But there are times when I would go for authentic and very distinctive looks.”
“We were just normal weird siblings when we started branding ourselves. We had no clue it would evolve into a ‘sibling fashion duo’. I think it works because there are two creative minds, each with own strengths and weaknesses. “
When it comes to their fashion approach, they embrace their “Africanness” wholeheartedly. As for what to expect from them next, Debbie says consistency and good quality merchandise will probably be the ultimate decider of our future.