In our latest edition of LIB Life special coverage to women in the creative sector, we welcome Marjean Sherman, the founder of Monrovia Fashion Week (MFW).
Sherman was inspired by her desire to put Liberian fashion on the map after noticing that so many other African countries had fashion week events, but that Liberia was missing in action.
After moving back to Liberia in November 2010, two years later in April of 2012, Marjean organized her first fashion show in her native land. She called it “Couture on the Blue”.
The event was held at the Golden Gate Hotel and was sold out.
The audience was impressed with the unique planning of the event and the beautiful African couture on display. The incredible success of her first event inspired her to organize Monrovia Fashion Week.
“I did some research and saw that many African countries were having fashion weeks, but this was not happening in Liberia. So I decided to do the same. My goal was to give Liberian fashion practitioners better national and international recognition on a grand scale,” Sherman explained.
In the early part of March 2013, as Marjean began visualizing her dream, she held the first MFW meeting and was able to bring on board like-minded people to toward the event and assist in the planning of the first edition of MFW.
“As you can imagine, it took a lot of work, coordination and dedication to realize the vision,” she told LIB Life.
Organizing the show was only one part of the job. The struggle was getting the right sponsors who would be willing to give the targeted amount of funding since the first edition was expected to run for five days.
It was not an easy victory, but the team work hard, got some sponsors to make the event a successful one.
“Self-motivation was the one thing that inspired us to do the events despite the persistent challenges of getting sponsors,” Sherman recalled.
“Three years later, funding remains our biggest struggle; so I have been forced to scale down each year because of lack of major support,” she lamented.
Another challenge she had to deal with was finding good models. She and her team did everything humanly possible to make sure that the models they selected were further trained to perform on an international level.
“I’m not a person that settles for mediocrity; and so the team did a series of model casting calls to get the best. It was not an easy task,” Sherman noted. “But we knew that the ones we selected could compete. All we needed was to guide and train them to become better.
“Designers too, were counseled to create pieces that people would be shocked to see, and we made sure the sewing was done perfectly as well,” she explained.
Despite the challenges that persist, Marjean has been able to achieve her dream of founding MFW.
Since then, MFW has grown to the extent that it is the biggest annual fashion event in Liberia, showcasing new designers, fashion lovers, fashion journalists, photographers, stylists and retailers. The event was recently nominated for The Best Fashion Event of the Year at the upcoming 2016 West Africa Fashion Awards (WAFA).
“The record of past editions has been impressive and praiseworthy regardless of the funding problem, and I’m happy that we were nominated for WAFA.
“At last I have tried to raise the standard in the fashion industry in Liberia and to expose our talent to the world. So far, we have been fortunate to be aired on International TV all across Africa on Spice TV, and have been featured in several international blogs and magazines,” Sherman noted.
Like our two previous featured, Marjean was born in Liberia, but spend most of her life in the United States where she acquired her high school education at Riverside High School in Durham, North Carolina. She holds a Business degree from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.