Joe Malaika Brings Vibrant Ugandan Fashion to Boston

Born in Uganda and calling Boston home, 36-year-old Joe Malaika has a vibrant, sleek style offering up vivid dresses, always with his signature band of black sequins. “My family is here, and a lot of my clients are here, and I believe, you know, Boston has a great fashion reputation. It’s just that people just don’t know where to find clothes,” Malaika said of why he calls Boston home.

“I found out that people here who are really into fashion, they have their own places they go to, and it’s really like our job as designers to, like, change that.” In his Lynn workroom, Malaika said he learned to sew from his grandmother. But it was at Bentley, where he studied marketing, that he designed a dress to impress a girl. When she posted it on social media, his name took off.

“Color is really my thing. You know, clothes today everybody’s all about, like, you know, social media. Everybody wants to show what they’re wearing on social media, and colors really come out, so I want to make sure I represent that.” Malaika said he wants to get into as many stores as possible.

“A lot of folks look up to me, so I want to share my talent, my legacy of my grandmother.” He puts on several “Excessive Fashion” shows a year and raises money for the Jimmy Fund and Dana Farber. He’s been recognized by the Commonwealth for giving back.

An outfit designed by Joe Malaika.

“What I love about this concept and about this place is that even 100 years after Gardner’s death, we have creative people engaging and using it as a platform and really kind of reinterpreting things to honor her legacy, and she would love that this contemporary designer – newish to Boston himself – would be part of this. Absolutely,” said Diana Greenwald, curator of the museum.

“Isabella was all about colors, and I felt I did a decent job bringing out what Isabella Stewart Gardner was all about,” Malaika said. “This is the new Boston. Everybody who says there is no fashion in Boston, please, you need to look up Joe Malaika!”


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