A vivacious Rundu-born fashion designer who specialises in textile designs, has represented Namibia at numerous international fashion shows and believes that adding her Kavango heritage in her creative work is what has taken her places.
Maria Caley moved to Windhoek to pursue her bachelor of arts in Fashion and Textile Design at the University of Namibia (Unam) soon after secondary school in Rundu where her passion grew stronger and her designing skills sharpened.
“As a fashion and textile designer, I constantly use my Kavango cultural heritage as inspiration in my work. Being a Kavango woman is one of the things that I am proud of and has paved a signature or identity in my creations beyond the borders,” Maria says.
“I registered to be a psychologist, at Unam as a first year but I was required to take a second major. So since I knew psychology would be a handful, I decided to take an art-related subject just for the sake of it. Without my realising it, my passion for fashion grew stronger by the year, so I decided to go for it and I’ve never looked back since,” Maria relates.
After graduation, Maria worked and participated in shows and exhibitions as an individual designer before becoming part of the Pambili Association as a project assistant.
“With Pambili, I was involved in lots of training with needlework and felting workshops. I worked closely with the Penduka project where we helped participants to come up with measures of keeping standards and developing new products for them,” Maria says.
She further narrates that, “When Pambili Association came to an end, I became part of the Pambili Young Designers.”
The group encouraged her to work as a fashion and textile designer from a shop she managed with two partners that was then located at the old brewery complex. By then, Maria also worked as an assistant lecturer at Unam where she still works.
The first international shows Maria attended were the Moëti Finish fashion show in Helsinki in 2007 and 2008. Maria participated through Pambili under the mentorship of Melanie Harteveldt-Becker who showed her the ropes of preparing for an international fashion show and fair as a real professional.
Many more shows such as the Africa fashion week in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2009; in Berlin in 2010; Miss Namibia in 2009 and 2010; in Luanda, Angola in 2010; in Niger in 2011 and recently at the SWAKARA fashion show where SWAKARA celebrated 105 years, soon followed.
According to Maria, she owes her success to God and the people in her life who inspire her, “Melanie Harteveldt-Becker always pushed me into doing things even when I thought I could not. I also thank my mother and my late father who always believed that one can only bring about change through education; they both taught me to strive and be the best of that I can be.”
Amakeya Designs is one of Maria’s brands that were born after her university graduation in 2005.
“Working with difficult clients remains the biggest challenge and imparting knowledge on students. I feel one can never really figure it out as each case is always different,” Maria adds.
Her day-to-day duties at her Amakeya Design include, consulting clients; planning collections; designing textiles; dyeing, painting and printing textiles; sourcing material/ fabrics; designing garments, making patterns and cutting, guiding and supervising, checking and controlling quality.