Preparations in top gear for Nilecouture Fashion Show in Juba

Preparations in top gear for Nilecouture Fashion Show in Juba
Doris Sukeji (photo credit: courtesy)

Doris Sukeji, a South Sudanese designer, has always dreamt big. She has been pursuing her dreams since 2015 when she founded Nilecouture, a fashion designer with a penchant for female wares made from kitenges.

Her drive is to provide women with elegant and sophisticated clothing with an African touch of bling and twist.

The City Review’s Kidega Livingstone caught up with Doris Kukeji ahead of their end-of-year fashion show scheduled for the first week of December at the Palm African Hotel in Juba. Here is the interview:

Kidega: What is the Nilecouture fashion week event all about?

Doris: The event is called Nilecouture Fashion Week. It is a fashion event that happens every year, and this is going to be the fifth edition. This is the fashion event, and it normally takes one week because we are doing different activities related to fashion, including a fashion runway event that is a collection of the out-of-foot dresses done by our local designers in Juba. South Sudanese come together to do fashion week and every year we welcome new designers who are upcoming to showcase what they do on the runway.

The fashion week for this year is going to start on December 2, 2021, and end on December 5.

We shall be having a professional makeup class that is a master class by one of the professional makeup artists, and then on December 3. We will have a professional fashion style dish that is basic classes for people who want to know what they wear when and how they will be having classes for that category.

There will be three market days that will be like a trade fair.  It’s called the Juba trade fair. We will be having different vendors come together to put their locally made products on display.

Kidega: When is the main event scheduled?

Doris: The main event will be on December 4, 2021. That is the fashion show and we will be having a runway event including showcasing different designers. We have a new Raymond for the Pitta Laku Juba collection, then we shall be having a Jotobba fashion house. We have Sukeji and many more. This is the fifth edition the first one was held in 2012 before we begin the partnering. 

Kidega: What is the vision of your company?

Doris: Our vision is to promote locally made clothes because when you see imported dresses, they normally come from China and other countries.  So, we are trying to make our clothes. We are trying to come up with something that South Sudanese can like. That material can be good for our weather because South Sudan’s weather is hot. Somehow, you might need to wear light materials because with heavy materials you will sweat.

Kidega: How was the turn-up in the previous shows?

Doris: We have been having well turn up because we have a targeted audience. We are targeting a certain audience for the event because it is a kind of cooperates event. It is not just a fashion show  because we have different people from different companies coming  to attend the show  because they get to network and to know each other  during the event

Kidega: Who are your sponsors?  

Doris: We are looking for sponsorships. It has not been easy but we are thankful that we have a few sponsors who also tried to stand with us that including Spectrum, The City Review T&T investment, Talent Print is also helping us out to support us in kind or cash, trying to lift us with the expenditure for the event.

Most of the events we rely on our tickets for because we have not been able to get sponsors who have the idea that they can sponsor the shows. We sell our tickets before the event to cover some of the costs but we do not lose trust or get to be discouraged

Kidega: South Sudan is not an easy place for business. How did you manage to make sure you are known?

Doris: When we started the idea, we put it out there for people to believe and like for designers to do something that can be worn. But it is for me to make sure that somebody likes my products.

What we do is try to sell the idea to our customers that this material is durable for them. It has not been an easy event as South Sudanese, we are learning. It is not like before if you see Juba and South Sudanese are changing there is progress, people have become more fashionable including their understanding because they follow our products in the social media and trying to copy thing is like that. 

People have become open-minded and from my experience every year we have more turns up so meaning we are growing.

Kidega: Do you have a plan to take your shows to other states?

Doris. We are still doing it in Juba because of a lack of funding and many obstacles. We are not out there yet and our shop is online. We have clients who know us and they are coming to us to make clothes for them but online because shops are very expensive and we are not able to afford to rent a shop. Most people follow us on social media.

Kidega: How do you convince the audience to turn up for the show? Where is the value addition

Doris: I am targeting an audience, it is not easy to convince a person to come to your event. But there is hope that how you can convince people.

We are charging a person $100 for a VIP ticket and $50 for an ordinary person, and when you pay that money, you want to know what we are offering to you. When you come there, you will be surprised that you are attending a local show made by local South Sudanese designers, because mostly we believe in talent and creativity.

The money is paid for only one day on December 4, because the market day will be a free entrance. You come to the market to do the shopping for your Christmas needs.

The fashion show is a matter of choice and you are going to see our new collection there because every year we do new collections and styles with projections on what people are going to dress in 2022. It is going to be the fashion of the year 2022. We also make clothes depending on the style you want and we will not duplicate, it will only be for you.

Kidega: What do you think are your main challenges in the business?

Doris. The main challenge is that most companies have not understood the word sponsorship because as a professional designer, I have a background in media communication and marketing and advertisement. Sometimes when I go to companies I know how the company talks to a client. Sometimes they can give hope but that hope cannot come to the fruits.