How Tufts Works: Idah Designs

Sitting outside of Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run last week, I noticed a strange phenomenon. Those exiting the take-out spot appeared to be significantly happier than they were upon entry. I found myself wondering what could possibly be causing these transformations.

The answer was glaringly obvious as soon as I stepped foot inside. There at the checkout station was Idah Duche. Idah, a dining services attendant, makes every interaction she has a positive one. She has the unique ability to exude overwhelming love and kindness through small gestures and short conversations.

While Idah is gifted in her social skills, she is equally talented with fabrics and patterns. As a teenager back home in Zimbabwe, Idah often used her mother’s sewing machine to make clothes and took courses on fashion and design in school. It was the teacher of her class on fabrics that inspired her to pursue clothing design more seriously.

Ever since graduating college Idah has singlehandedly managed her own fashion company. In the early stage of her career, Idah owned a small boutique called Idah Designs. After moving to Botswana in 2004, she expanded her business and started producing clothing on a larger scale.

On top of managing her own company and raising four kids, Idah was teaching a class on clothing technology at a local technical institute. Faced with the challenge of juggling these demanding responsibilities, Idah simply told herself to “soldier on.”

Idah’s unwillingness to accept defeat also helped her with the transition to life in the United States when she moved here for her husband’s job. Upon arrival, Idah took great care to study and learn about American culture. After seven years in the United States, it is clear that she has thrived; I can hear the pride in her voice as she tells me about buying her own house and becoming a citizen.

“I feel like I am that American Dream girl,” she said.

On top of getting herself and her family acclimated to life in the States, Idah has successfully established her place in the American fashion world. She has developed her business model to cater towards African women whose fashion needs are not being met by American designers. In the future, Idah hopes to expand her operations from the online sphere to a brick and mortar store.

Regardless of where she is in the world, her love for fashion has never waned. Idah says that she is always taking inspiration from the clothes she sees around her, something that she says is deeply rooted within her.

Idah’s passion for her work at Tufts has also been key to her success. But, she says, the student body makes working at Hodgdon particularly special.

“I am so proud of Tufts students, and I am so happy working with you guys,” she said.

Regardless of how much praise Idah radiates outwards, I think we can all agree that most of it should be directed back at her.