Inspirational Woman: Claire Namukolo | Founder, Hair Heals Organisation & Director, Cheshire Fashion Week

Claire Namukolo

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I find it difficult to tell you a bit about myself because there is so much to say about both my professional and personal life that I can never squeeze it into one sentence. An enigma would be a good description of me. Currently, I am the director of Cheshire Fashion Week in Chester, Cheshire which has grown into the north’s largest fashion event. Following years of working in the fashion industry, marketing, and PR, I felt there was a void in Cheshire’s fashion industry and decided to launch the county’s first fashion week. Furthermore, I’m the owner and founder of Hair Heals Organisation, an organisation that raises awareness of alopecia and advocates positive visibility through fashion, creative arts, and media. I find fulfilment in doing this philanthropic project. Along with my philanthropic work, I discovered my love for writing during the pandemic and launched The Guide Cheshire where I work as the editor and Director of The Cheshire Guide Social for digital marketing. There’s a lot here to digest, but as I always say, I only know one life and in that life I should do it.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I can safely say I have never had to sit down and plan my career. I believe a lot of my success comes from my perseverance, hard work, curiosity for learning new things, and a desire to solve problems. It doesn’t matter what it is,, I work hard to learn it and learn ten different ways to do it, even if it’s as simple as cleaning plates. This is usually not planned, but rather learned over time.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

As an entrepreneur, I have certainly come across challenges, but many of them have been the building blocks for who I am today and why I chose fashion, digital publishing, and helping people with alopecia as my career directions. While I was in secondary school, I was an athlete on my school’s team. I had no idea that athletic endurance would be useful in business. It took the challenges I thought would break me, like limited resources, starting a new business from scratch, having to be the only one believing in an idea to make it successful, to make me more resilient, confident, and balanced.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

While many of the things I have accomplished are not significant, to me they count just as much. Seating with someone who is experiencing long term alopecia for over an hour and listening, because even just the act of listening is an achievement. However, others are just as significant like my professional accomplishments that include establishing Cheshire Fashion Week as the North’s most sought-after fashion week for designers, brands, and models from throughout the UK, a vision deemed impossible at the beginning, publishing The Guide Cheshire and working with the BBC through Hair Heals Organisation as the creative producer of the Alopecia Is Fashion viral campaign come to mind. Nevertheless, I am a very proud mom, and I adore my son. Being a mother is my greatest accomplishment, and my fiance getting on his Knees to ask that MM word really.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

As a result of my absence from social media, I have so much time to focus on refining my craft and reflecting on my achievements, both of which are key elements to succeeding. Being alone seems to be frowned upon in today’s society? I find that most of my great ideas have come to me while I am alone rather than in a group, so getting some alone time works for me in achieving success and I enjoy working without distractions and maintaining mental health. Some of the greatest inventions and ideas have come from being alone and thinking, like my idol Sir Isaac Newton. It doesn’t work for everyone, as I know. Mental agility is another secret to my success. Participating in sports has taught me a lot, such as mental resilience and not letting what others think to affect me, allowing them an opinion and knowing that I also have my own of them makes it ever so easy to achieve success. As I learn the secrets to my success, I am sure there are many more that I will discover through trial and error.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

My mentors have been many, not just one. I surround myself with a small circle of trusted confidants who I gather knowledge from based on their true accomplishments, reputation and experiences. I’m sure I’ve gathered mentors along the way too, since I don’t think there is one. When it comes to being mentored, I get it only from individuals who have excelled in an area I wish to excel in. I avoid anyone who is keen on mentoring me or giving me advice without asking for it. Some of my most valuable mentorships have come through passing conversations because I asked the right questions. To me, most people don’t have the ability or desire to mentor, no matter where they are in their careers or what they insist they know, so I tend to do my best not to take on a mentor role with anyone myself.

You’re on a mission to change attitudes and raise awareness for hair loss – what would be your advice for anyone with Alopecia and hair loss?

I encourage anyone with alopecia to seek out creative, media, and arts jobs within the fashion, creative, and media industries to increase awareness and representation. You are beautiful; you need to be represented in television ads, TV shows, TV presenter roles, arts exhibitions, galleries, fashion weeks, magazine roles, and many more sectors that are defining what beauty is at the moment. It is my mission to make sure, when I walk in places and industries that define beauty, those with alopecia are represented and visible.

Alopecia and hair loss seem to be on the rise – why do you think this is? Or are people just becoming more confident to share this part of their lives?

Alopecia and hair loss of all kinds have been neglected as a cause in general. There are many people who put aside the issues of those with alopecia, and those who have experienced long-term or short-term alopecia now share their stories on Instagram so others can share their own. For example, our hashtag #Alopeciaisfashion has brought out some beautiful makeup loving alopecians’ who have been using it to share their love of fashion, makeup, and beauty. We all experience stress, so anyone can experience alopecia at some point in their lives, but that shouldn’t stop you from following what they love. Other causes of alopecia are still under research, so I recommend consulting your GP if you experience the first signs.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Growing up was a wonderful experience for me, but this is a very tricky question because my young days were full of twists and turns. My advice to young me would be not to be too self-sufficient, and to ask for help.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My next challenge will be to launch the Alopecia magazine. As part of my mission to increase mainstream media awareness of those with alopecia, we have already started the project, which is already a trademark for it. Getting funding right and doing it perfectly for the first time is the only thing holding me back, and because of that, it’s a challenge. The challenge lies in finding investors, supporters, volunteer editors, and writers who would love to contribute to the magazine. However, I am excited about this challenge since it has so much potential.

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