For years, 31-year old Anita Beryl Ahikiriza has been designing dinner and bridal wear. In 2016 she was named Outstanding Fashion Designer of the Year at UEA awards and Abryanz Style and Fashion awards. She also showcased in Nigeria, Addis Ababa, Barcelona, and Mombasa among several other countries. It was a turning point.
Kampala, Uganda | AGNES E NANTABA | “I had always been nominated but only started being rewarded two years ago,” says Beryl, “But even with just being nominated, I was humbled by the opportunities after all I also believed that I wasn’t yet there.”
She first trained as a teacher at Uganda Christian University Mukono because her mother, a teacher, insisted on it. There was sometimes little room for objection in the strict Christiam household of her father, Rev Emmanuel Ahabwe and his wife Jean Ahabwe. Her mother told her she could, in any case, easily switch to something else.
“I never saw myself as a teacher,” she says.
So just one year into the three year course, she switched to tailoring. It is a passion she picked when her maternal grandmother taught her and five others the basics of tailoring. The training started when she was just three years old and she does not recalls it fondly.
“She would come home during holidays to teach us how to make our own sweaters and dresses but each time she would come in, we would see it as a burden,” says Beryl.
But with time, Beryl loved tailoring to the extent that even at Bweranyangi Girls School where she spent six years, she had unique dresses for the parties which her colleagues always sought for.
It’s during her tenure at university that Beryl got to know about the then movers of Uganda’s fashion industry; Sylvia Owori, Santa Anzo and Stellah Atal. She modeled some of Sylvia Owori’s outfits something she says got her access to the fashion icon. After graduation, she went to the Uber-Glan Fashion School in Johannesburg in 2010 for a certificate. The following year, she started Beryl Qouture. Her big break came when a friend commissioned her to make her wedding collection which everyone and she got more deals. Later, participation in the Bride and Groom Expo organised by the New Vision Group opened more doors. It was a last minute decision because she was expected to showcase lingerie which she was certain her highly religious parents would not approve of. She showcased eight pieces from the final collection of the certificate course and since then, evening and wedding dresses have remained her niche. She has since attended the Fresh Fashion Institute Esmod Dubai.