How AR became Tanzania’s go-to top fashion designer

Thursday August 19 2021
Ally Rehmtullah

Ally Rehmtullah showcases his work at AR Shop. PHOTO | COURTESY


You expect one who has rubbed shoulders with most celebrities in the country, including super models Flaviana Matata, Miriam Odemba, and Happiness Magese, to be a little uppity and pretentious. Quite to the contrary. Ally of the renowned Ally Rehmtullah brand comes out as suave and people-friendly, sincere, and exuding a strong work ethic.

Journey to the top

“I wanted to be in the creative industry, but not in fashion per se since I had studied Graphics & Fine Art. As an international student one had to have full-time credits and in my second semester at Baum School of Art, Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania USA, my classes were ill-fitting, so my counselor advised me to take a fashion course, ‘because I think you dress up well and have flamboyant choices in colour’” Rehmtullah recalls.

Ally would return home to Dar in 2006, to take his first job teaching Graphics at Desktop Publishing Institute earning no more than Tsh250,000. And from this, he saved to cater for his first client for whom he made an outfit.

That client is the current District Commissioner for Temeke, Jokate Mwegelo. But back then she was the emcee for Redd’s African Fashion Design Awards. Ally designed her evening gown and the rest, as they say, is history.

Within no time, Ally became the first Tanzanian fashion designer to feature in London Fashion Week 2008. He has since participated in numerous international and local fashion shows, including hosting his own annual night fashion gala.


Challenging infrastructure 

“In fashion there are so many opportunities if you can recognise them. I started with dressing ushers for corporate events, and this got me into the advertising agency business. When Peroni launched, I was tasked to dress their ushers. Soon, every time they had a promotion and I would do the costumes for ushers. Gradually, I broke into the activations and promotions circuit.”


Ally’s store stocks other fashion brands like Buganzi & Streets of Dar es Salaam. He uplifts young designers and allowed the jewelry designers of Buganzi to showcase their pieces at AR. He has also partnered with fine artist Ngaira Mandara of Streets of Dar es Salaam.

Ally Rehmtullah’s designs

A display of Ally Rehmtullah’s designs. PHOTO | COURTESY

Three years ago Ally spotted Ngaira’s fine artworks on social media and met to discuss some collaboration. Now Ally prints Ngaira’s artwork on fashion items, like T-Shirts, baby clothes .etc.

“We also have Streets of Zanzibar now and Streets of Iringa where we have sold distributorship rights. We just produce for them. We are currently looking for a distributor in Arusha. Ngaira manages funding and combined with my skills, it became a perfect match,” Ally adds.

The AR101 School 

Ally Rehmtullah brand opened a fashion school called AR101 earlier this year, offering short courses on fashion. They have had 11 students so far and the first batch of six has already graduated.

Ally Rehmtullah and fashion instructor Anjali Bhokhataria

Ally Rehmtullah and fashion instructor Anjali Bhokhataria inside AR101. PHOTO | COURTESY

Ally saw a gap in the market for equipping young designers and partnered with skilled local fashion designers Anjali Bhokhataria, Michael Cyril Michael and Diana Matto as instructors.

AR now employs over 18 people.