By: Rachel Dosant
The sounds of a sewing machine and its pedals echoes inside a small room filled with vibrant, colorful prints of fabric stacked one on top of the other.
Two sewing machines are facing back-to-back and a steamer is ready to be put to work. This is the workspace of a creative fashion genius.
Leyla Wakabeza, also known as ‘Miss Beida fashions’, is an African fashion designer from Mississauga. Born in Congo and raised in Tanzania, Miss Beida knew fashion, was meant for her at an early age.
“I was 13–years old when I first got into creating designs. Back home my father was a tailor. I would watch him work and sometimes help him thread the machines.”
As a young girl Wakabeza received small pieces of fabric from her father to make her own little dresses and later on began making school uniforms for kids in her community who couldn’t afford it.
“It was fun to make clothes and make others feel good, from there I started loving it and knew this was for me.”
Wakabeza’s fashion influences stem from her upbringing in Tanzania.
“ I was raised seeing African fabric everyday. Seeing our mothers and sisters in that fabric inspires me to make African Dresses. “
When Wakabeza first came to Canada in 2007 she felt she could not wear the printed dresses she brought from home. Fearing that people would look at her funny.
“I eventually got over how I thought people would look at me. I am proud when I wear anything with African print. Ten years ago African print was not popular has it is now, everyone is wearing it down to celebrities, says Wakabeza.
Wakabeza’s fashion sense embodies her African roots by transferring African fashion into modern styles making her fashion pieces unique and interesting.
In 2012, Wakabeza, graduated George Brown College, from the Fashion Technique and Design program, and from there went on to compete in African Fashion Week Toronto, in 2013 and 2014; where she won 2014’s title of student designer.
“I was shocked, I didn’t know I had it in me to win, I originally made clothes for my friends, and my kids, but after winning I said to myself ;Oh I won I can do it, so I began making more of an effort and putting more hard work into my brand,” says Wakabeza.
This past summer, she competed again in the AFWT2016 (African Fashion Week Toronto 2016) where her designs proven to show off her evolution from student to high end designer, and trendsetter. With her lavish designs, and exquisite prints, her pieces were simply divine, where she showcased her new collection themed “royal Nigerian wedding.” although not winning this years title as ladies wear designer, Miss Beida was crowned the queen of the dashiki, and her show was hailed genius, and simply amazing by her audiences and her peers.
Miss Beida has come along way, and still has more to go. This year, she was a contestant on a TV show called the Golden Button. The series that airs on ‘Afro global TV’ and takes six designers through challenges and critics each week. Professional judges in the business, share advice and score them on each design they showcase.
“It was really good, I learn so much, like how to work under pressure, and working with other people, getting to exchange ideas was amazing. It was overall a great experience,” says Wakabeza.
While the Golden Button is still on air, Miss Beida is unable to reveal if she is indeed the winning of the show or not.
Leylas journey through her fashion experience has come with a lot of hard work and dedication. Making a name for herself, was something that took time for her to blossom into; who she is today. “For anyone trying to make it in the fashion industry I’d say you have to be patient, and have a passion for it. You have to love what you are doing.”
She has learned a lot about her self through being in the fashion world, and describes herself as someone who loves her heritage. “Miss Beida is this chick who loves African fabric, when she sees African print she goes crazy (good crazy) she tries to create and transform anything she can with African printed fabrics.” Her love for it is unlike anything else she loves to make people look good.