Olivier Niyitanga alias Gucci Tanga is one of Rwanda’s talented, smart and young fashion designers. Since launching his Tanga Designs Ltd in 2014, the 20-year-old is living proof to many young people that with determination, it is indeed possible for anyone to succeed. Tanga derives from a Kinyarwanda word Gutanga, loosely translated as to give or sharing.
The New Times’ Linda M. Kagire caught up with the designer, who talked about his inspiration in the fashion industry and future plans, among other issues.
What sparked your interest in fashion?
I’ll say there are several factors but mainly I had this burning desire to become a fashion designer as an adult. So when I came of age, I decided to venture into fashion as an entrepreneur. Also, I wanted to inspire young people to become self-made and self-employed instead of job-seekers.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you ventured into fashion?
The biggest lesson I have learned is to believe in myself, be a person of integrity and respect people (regardless of their back ground, status or age) because you never know whom you’re dealing with. It could be your future brand manager, client or business partner.
Was there ever a time when you were going to give up? If so, what motivated you to get back on track?
To be quite honest, the journey has been rough. Along the way you meet challenges like disappointments by the people and the tailors, and having to fight for the opportunity to show your talent. However, I decided not to give up on my dream because such experiences make us stronger.
Where do you find the inspiration for your fashion collection?
Well, my inspiration comes from the day-to-day issues; the past and current events. I’m constantly learning and trying to be more creative.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
In five years, Tanga Designs Ltd will be an international brand, with chains in different parts of the continent. Also, I want to create jobs for many people—so in five years’ time, my brand will be employing many people.
What advice would you give to aspiring fashion designers?
I advise aspiring fashion designers to work hard and put their creativity to use. To believe in themselves and work with experienced fashion experts to help them make good business plans. They should also endeavor to be creative and make their collections unique because in this industry people appreciate originality.
How do you see your career progressing?
Well, I would say I’m on the right track. I have created myself a name in the creative industry and most people appreciate my designs.
However, the journey is still long because my target is to be able to feed the local market and to sell my collections to different parts of the world. Rwanda has plenty of incredible products to offer to other countries.
What favourite quote do you live by?
My favorite quote is: “Live your life and think big”. It’s all about your life and if you dream big, you try to work hard to make your dream come true.
What does your typical week involve?
[Laughs] Well, it can be pretty hectic. It involves 6-days of working; attending to my clients, trainings and documenting…. I’m a Christian, so Sunday means going to Church. The great thing about being a designer is that you deal with a lot of random situations.