Petit Pagne launches “Avenue Lumumba” women’s collection
On Saturday, Petit Pagne officially launched its first women’s collection, “Avenue Lumumba,” at Heaven Restaurant.
Elisabeth Dutrisac, the founder and CEO of Petit Pagne, describes “Avenue Lumumba” as “a mix of vintage designs from the 50s and 60s with a more modern look.”
Born into a family of talented seamstresses, Dutrisac started to make her own clothes at the age of 12.
While she lived in France, Dutrisac gravitated toward African textiles in shops but the fabric was expensive. In 2009, she moved to Rwanda and her search for a meaningful hobby led to the creation of Petit Pagne.
Dutrisac met a group of Rwandan women, who had created a community centre after the 1994 Rwanda Genocide against the Tutsi for literacy classes and vocational training.
She began to volunteer at the centre by giving English, cooking, and hygiene classes, but her discovery of sewing machines led her to begin offering sewing classes.
Dutrisac trained 16 women to sew, three of whom are now employed by Petit Pagne. The women are between the ages of 23 and 28 and come from underprivileged backgrounds.
“Training is not enough,” said Dutrisac, “It’s good to give training, but a job was what these people were really looking for to make a decent living.”
Dutrisac created Petit Pagne, which means “small yard of fabric” in French, and started with small items, such as coasters made of recycled soda caps and a clothing line for children.
“I try to keep my designs modern and mix African fabric with Western style so it’s not totally westernized and its not totally African,” said Dutrisac, “The designs blend everything together so that customers can wear the clothing here in Kigali but also in Paris and in London.”
On February 18, Petit Pagne previewed “Avenue Lumumba” on the catwalk of “The Good Fashion Show” during London Fashion Week. The spring/summer 2012 collection is inspired by fashion in the Congo during the 50s and 60s.
“I was looking at old pictures of men and women in the Congo, and they were so chic in how they were dressing,” said Dutrisac, “I saw that independence in a country also liberated fashion for women.”
She adds, “I try to showcase that fashion is a way for women to show their freedom and their independence.”
Petit Pagne items are distributed in Kigali and a few store locations in Dar es Salaam. Dutrisac says the “Avenue Lumumba” collection is currently in production and will be in store by the beginning of May.
Looking ahead, Dutrisac plans to open an e-shop with a partner in France and distribute the line in the U.S. and Canada.
“Where I come from, when I say that I am working in Rwanda, people are always scared for me,” said Dutrisac, “But I feel that Rwanda is a safe place, a nice place, a happy place. I want to export [Petit Pagne] to showcase that beauty and quality can come out of Rwanda.”
For more information about Petit Pagne, you can visit
www.petitpagne.com or find it on Twitter and Facebook.