Finding beautiful outfits that fit right with that wow-factor for me, has most times been through sheer luck! Discovering a designer that’s patient and pays extreme attention to detail has been my highlight this month.
I met with Pam at her shop in Panamera, where I learnt she has more than one passion. Besides her full time job as an analyst at a bank, is her love for sketching some amazing designs. She has managed to make time to build this super classy brand we’re all continuously falling in love with, called Leap Year!
Pam’s creative journey started when she realised she was destined for more than her regular roles at work. Meeting her job requirements wasn’t as fulfilling and she felt there was something missing. Picking up a sketch book and starting to piece together designs from material she got from her mum invigorated her.
I’ve learnt a lot lately. Especially that designers; are never what we expect. As always, here are some amazing shots of me in her elegant designs from her latest collection Equilibrium, which I pray inspire you to do what you truly love despite having that 8-5. I sure am!
Photography by: Zahra Abdul
Karen: How did Leap Year come to life? Why Leap year, is there any story behind the name?
I decided to go with Leap Year because my mum was born in a leap year, and she is my best source of inspiration. I was looking for a brand name that was abstract, a name that would capture people’s curiosity yet still have sentimental meaning for me.
My passion for design was awakened when I returned home from university in 2009. My mum brought me some print fabrics from West Africa and I started to get ideas. So after about a million sketches later, I worked up the courage to bring my sketches to reality; this was in 2013. And that is how Leap Year was born! My passion actually grew more through sketching than garment creation; there’s just something about being able to put your creative possibilities on paper…
Karen: You also run Nambi Fashion House with Tina Byaruhanga. Could you share a bit about how it was created?
Tina and I came together with a vision to create an establishment where people could have high quality yet affordable custom clothing made, and that is basically what Nambi Fashion House is. At NFH, our primary line of business is to create bespoke pieces, and these range from clothing and accessories to homeware. We have an in-house fashion label that caters for men, women and children. We also offer cut-and-sew services for aspiring designers because we recognise how difficult it can be to find good, reliable tailors in Kampala!
Karen: What’s the ideal day in the life of Pam like?
I do have a full time job, working as an Analyst at a bank. A typical day for me would be mostly spent at work, with Leap Year and NFH client meetings and errands handled in between. On the evenings I am free, I pass by the NFH workshop to check on the staff and catch up on client orders.
Karen: Tell us what makes each of these design labels/ brands stand out…
Both brands represent the current day contemporary Africa.
Leap Year Clothing compares the imaginative and flirty with the sexy and sophisticated. We create pieces that incorporate bold colours, unique prints, and eclectic details to create vibrant and dynamic pieces products with a modern sensibility. Each piece is created with calculated simplicity and thoughtful detailing.
Nambi is an interwoven celebration of cultural and modern influences. The label carries formal and casual modern clothing, mixing different prints and textiles to create contemporary styles, creating beautiful fashion in timeless cuts. Our pieces allow customers to express their personal style. From ready-to-wear pieces to custom creations, our garments are created with extreme attention to finish and details, transforming each design into a glamorous showpiece.
Karen: Where does all the magic happen and within what sort of time-frame?
Production for both labels is predominantly done at the NFH workshop and showroom in Naguru. During busy periods, we also commission artisans around town who help us with the workload. These artisans are carefully vetted, and the work is closely supervised to ensure high quality. For that matter, we always ensure that the minimum time-frame for delivery is approximately two weeks per piece. Seems like a lot of time, right? But, this time allows for sourcing of materials, finalising of design concepts, actual garment construction, fittings, and final adjustments.
Karen: From where would you say, you draw the most inspiration when creating your new designs?
Anything and everything can inspire design for me. Because I travel quite often for work, I have learnt to open myself up to new experiences. The new cultures that I encounter contribute to my creativity; being able to identify with different lifestyles helps me to tailor each piece to suit the user’s perceived needs. I am constantly aware of my surroundings, appreciating simple things in nature like flowers and trees and birds and insects, how they’re affected by the elements, and how they all blend together to create this colourful world that we live in. I have also found that the interactions between architecture and interiors provide a different perspective to design, in the way one is able to create by bringing together various materials and textures. I also draw inspiration from other creative minds.
Karen: Say you were given unlimited time and materials, what’s the one thing would you create?
Experiment with unconventional materials like plastics and metal to create wearable garments and accessories; create my own fabrics and prints
Karen: Is there any advice that someone gave you that you’d like to pass on to other artists/creatives out there?
You have to be passionate about you do. Art is a growth and learning process, so you have to exercise a lot of patience. Keeping track of your progress over time will keep you motivated, but be sure to set realistic goals. If you’re going into fashion, remain authentic. People eventually start to appreciate your art form when your product is consistent.
Karen: What advice would you have for someone that may be in an unfulfilling job at the moment?
We have all been blessed with unique gifts, and often we suppress them because they may not align with or fulfil the expectations of society. Do not be afraid to explore your talents, whatever they may be. You don’t have to jump in at the deep end right away, start small and see where it leads you. It’s better to have to tried to live to up to your full potential than to regret not ever having tried at all.
Karen: How easy has it been for you to penetrate the Ugandan fashion market? Are you raising the banner as a solely Ugandan brand?
It’s not easy trying to penetrate the Ugandan market. While there are so many great established and up-coming Ugandan brands out there, I find that we face two challenges as Ugandan designers: imported “fast-fashion”, and the high cost of production.
Yes, I believe we are raising the banner as solely Ugandan brands both at Leap Year and at NFH. We are fully committed to supporting Ugandan fashion and showing people out there that there are good Ugandan designers who have got what it takes to make it on the international fashion scene.
I’m deeply honoured to have shared with you her amazing designs and inspired by her journey. Sharing these Leap year outfits and their amazing finishing, was my way of unleashing a hidden gem to you! Isn’t she amazing?