Designer Mia one step away from UK award

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A former pupil of Madras College, St Andrews, is one step away from winning one of the United Kingdom’s top fashion designer awards.

Mia Nisbet, who has already built up an enviable reputation in the world of fashion, has been shortlisted in the Fashions Finest Designer of the Year Award 2011, with the winner being announced at a glittering gala event at London’s Gibson Hall on July 22.

Mia (30), who is based in Glasgow where she resides with her husband, Dominick Chimwembe and her nine-month-old son, Dio, has already enjoyed several stunning national successess - her Mia by Mia Nisbet is an award winning Ethical Label, winner of the 2008 Make Your Mark In Fashion Award and the 2009 Innovation Award from the British Fashion Council.

She uses recycled fabrics and traditional Malawian textiles to produce a collection that merges the richness of African textiles with western styling. She works with producers in Malawi to create her own ranges and her collections are designed and sold to the international fashion market.

Some of the profits are reinvested in communities in Malawi as well as in training, equipment and the infrastructure needed to increase market access and create sustainable livelihoods. The design concept is ethical fashion that unites two cultures, and importantly, is sustainable and wearable.

An honours graduate in textile design from the Glasgow School of Art, Mia admits to having “fallen in love with Malawi” during a trip there several years ago.

In an exclusive interview with the Citizen during a visit to her parents’ home in the East Neuk - dad Ken Nisbet was the head of mathematics at Madras College until his retirement - Mia explained that inspiration for her collections came from her time spent in Malawi.

She explained: ”In the street markets of Malawi, local traders are selling copious amounts of second-hand clothing that has been imported from the USA, Europe and elsewhere, primarily from donations.

“The sheer volume is astounding and has made it very challenging for locally produced clothing to compete in the local market.”

She observed how Malawian citizens mixed imported clothes with their traditional dress and printed textiles and from this she has developed eye-catching ranges based on a fusion between tradition and modernity.

Mia added: ”It is brilliant to have been shortlisted for the award and it has come out of the blue. I was quite shocked when I heard that I had been nominated. It is great news and it is really exciting.”

Designs on her own ethical fashion label are on sale at several boutiques across the country and she will have five of her latest pieces on show on the catwalk at the awards’ programme, which she hopes will impress the judging panel and help her scoop the prestigious title.

The Designer of the Year Award is the leading prize up for grabs at the London show and a spokeswoman for Fashions Finest said: ”The British fashion trade is one of the most vibrant and internationally recognised fashion industries in the world.

‘‘The awards are aimed at recognising new and emerging talent from our diverse fashion industry.”