She has dressed Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o and Uganda’s chess Woman Candidate Master Phiona Mutesi for the premiere of ‘Queen of Katwe’. She has also designed several Miss Uganda and Miss Tourism contestants among others.
Yet Brenda Niwagaba Maraka, who is undoubtedly among Uganda’s top fashion designers, describes herself as “just a simple person who loves work and fashion”. She is also quick to recognise people who have inspired her, including renowned fashion designer and artist Stella Atal and Xenson Samson Ssenkaaba
In January 2007, Maraka officially launched ‘Brendamaraka’ as a fashion label.
“I work to represent Uganda as a tropical country through fashion and also extend Kampala’s position as a fashion hub,” said Maraka.
For the love of developing and inspiring others through her fashion skills, Maraka grooms two talented and interested students in fashion and design every year.
Come next year January, Maraka is set to showcase at her own fashion show marking ten years in the industry.
It will be the highest point for a woman who from way back, as a young girl, has loved being artistic. It was no surprise that she concentrated on art in school and one of her fondest memories as a student is designing costumes for school plays and beauty pageants.
“That confirmed my goal in life of creating designs through my own fashion label,” she says, “I love to create new things.”
At 13 years old, after completing primary education, Maraka proceeded to Namasagali College in Kamuli for O-level and these to her were years of fun and building character. She then left to a new environment of only girls at Trinity College Nabbingo for A-level and by the time she left she had forged a career path.
“It was a totally different and harder experience. However, by the time I completed Form six, I knew what I was meant to be a fashion designer courtesy of the school’s arrangement on career guidance,” says Maraka.
She was offered several opportunities including one on government sponsorship at Makerere University all of which were meant to grow her fashion career but Maraka settled for a fashion design program at the London Academy of Design and dress making where she completed in 2005.
Maraka chose exposure to international fashion trends at the London school at a cost rather than free education in Uganda. She rates it as a priceless decision that has paid off.
In 2014 as part of her internship program, Maraka made a maiden runaway showcase during the Uganda International Fashion Week and since then she has not looked back. She has participated in a number of fashion events both in Uganda and UK.
In comparing London’s fashion industry to Uganda, Maraka says London has already established big brands and it is close to impossible for anyone starting out.
“The industry is faster, bigger and people produce too many new collections every year as the market demands,” she says.
By contrast, she says, Uganda offers limitless opportunities are limitless or, in her words, “There is room to define who you are”.