Woman: Give us a brief history about yourself.
FFS: Francisca Francis Shirima is the Tanzanian behind the label Frankoo. I grew up in a great family and as I can remember, my mother would do tailoring as her part-time job while my father used to like fashion. That is where I probably started adapting the skills needed to become a fashion designer, although doing it as a career was so difficult at the beginning.I studied at Kifungilo Girls Secondary School and thereafter I joined the Institute of Social Work. I also took art courses at Nyumba ya Sanaa.
Woman: How did you get into fashion designing and why?
FFS: I never felt like I had a choice. I always wanted to be a designer and I decided early enough that I would do anything to succeed in it. What I know is I had and still have passion for it. And to prove this I get so many design ideas in my head all the time that I eventually put them in fruition. It just seemed natural to translate them into fashion.
Woman: When did you decide to begin in earnest a career as a fashion designer?
FFS: Immediately after graduating from the institute. I first began with local clothing materials such as batik, kitenge, khanga,kikoi etc but sometimes I venture into modern foreign designs because of customer needs. And I should appreciate that sometimes people comes up with brilliant ideas and different ways of style from our local materials.
What I am proud of myself is I am able to deliver. I started a workshop, but things didn’t work the way I wanted because at times you let customers have their say but you end up finding yourself not having much because everyone wants the same style. In mid last year, I came up with the idea of ready made clothes. I participated in the Swahili Fashion Week which was again a training ground for me.
I got a lot of ideas from there that I have been trying to put into practice. I have like 10 new designs from this training and I can see myself selling.I am promoting African fashion and at the same time promoting my brand FRANKOO Designs. It can be viewed in Facebook page as Frankoo Designs.
Woman: What do you think about the color of the year? Do you personally think it makes good fashion statements?
FFS: The 2012 Tangerine Tango (reddish orange) colour is wonderful; I can see it giving me energy in working in my collections. It is very good for pre - wedding parties and even for home and other decorations.
Woman: Who are your favorite designers and why?
FFS: In the country all designers are good and everyone has his/her own style. But most of my inspiration comes from designers from outside the country because in this business you need to stay focused and although you are going African but you always need to try to blend it with current international trends. I admire Nigerian and Ghanaian fashion designers because their fashions are in the next level. They are always ahead in African world of fashions. And they always use local clothing materials.
Woman: Are fashion and style the same thing?
FFS: Fashion is an expression, meaning there is really no such a thing as "out of fashion" because fashion is only a means of one’s expression. In every human, unique expression of their style and their personality is being reflected. Fashion will always be unique to everyone; it is a means to communicate.
Style always comes with someone’s personality depending on the behaviour. But at the same time the two go together because without both, fashion or style won’t exist.
Woman: How would you define your style and why do you choose to define it that way?
FFS: My style is the richness of African fabrics, to the fluidity of soft silks, satin and cotton fabrics that create designs which are representative of the diversity of the modern African woman. African woman is bold, conservative, full of life and character! As the colors, textures and patterns are complimented with cowl necks, bell and asymmetric sleeves, detailed and dramatic necklines all this in mixing with Khanga and Kitenge.
Woman: What do you do besides fashion and designing?
FFS: As a designer I need to be current by reading magazines, browsing the internet, attending fashion shows, and studying technical manuals, to mention but a few.The more one studies the history of fashion the better one understands its development and current trends. By doing this, it takes a great deal of time, seriousness and hard work. From the point of manufacture to delivery, this work entails a lot of pressure. For me it is a full time job.