Kigali Fashion Week will be a multi-million dollar brand in 2 years – Bunyeshuri


John Bunyeshuri. (Courtesy)

John Bunyeshuri is the brains behind the Kigali Fashion Week (KFW), a fashion and modelling brand that started seven years ago and brought a new face to the fashion industry. KFW Europe was recently launched in London and Manchester under the theme ‘Rwanda exposed’ with the aim of promoting Rwandan brands. Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa caught up with him on his plans for the brand.

Why export KWF outside Rwanda?

KWF is a brand and can be anywhere in the world, and so we are trying to add value to the brand. We have strategies and in the next two years it will be worth five million dollars. My background is to build brands and add value to them and that is what I am doing to Kigali Fashion Week.

Is this a sign that the fashion industry in the country has come of age?

I cannot say we are 100% established but in order for us to establish KFW in Rwanda, we have to export it because if we do, it will automatically be established here. We have had challenges in terms of resources to organize events but from my experience if we export our brand and make it international it will become bigger than what we are here.

The KFW Europe is just the beginning of our new project that will begin in November where we will move to several places like Switzerland, North America, New York, Los Angeles, Japan and then back to Africa.

Will it feature Rwandan designers and models too?

It is going to do exactly what we do here. It will have Rwandan models and designers which we will take it from here. Our point is promoting Made in Rwanda although we will involve other designers and models since it is international. That’s our vison and we will keep it that way.

How sustainable do you think this project is going to be?

When I started the KFW seven years ago, nobody was willing to sponsor or support me. I had my vision and I was determined to do it with or without support and we are still standing. I don’t quit. I do what I have to do and make sure I sustain it. I do not rely on partners in Rwanda because they are not so many. My partners are abroad in Asia, Europe and North America and they are sustainable because they understand fashion better.

How has the fashion industry evolved from over the years?

When we started seven years ago we were crawling, and now we are walking steadily but then in the next two years we will be flying. Seeing parents bringing their daughters for model casting was something unheard of in the past. If this is happening then I know that we are on the right track.

What makes you passionate about this industry?

It is the young people that are benefiting from KFW. We have many designers in Paris that came for KFW and another thing is that collective Rwanda is a product of KFW. It gives me joy that all these people have grown, improved their skills, doing shows,and seeing the models coming together to work together gives me the strength to carry on.

But we still see the status of models in the shadows

We have only just began and therefore these models should not expect to be superstars overnight. It will take some years because even the payment is unsustainable compared to the countries. The opportunities are also not available as our models rely on the few fashion shows we have in the country. It is a challenge but within a few years we will be there.

What are your future plans for the brand?

We are planning to start up a school of fashion but this, I will not explain in detail. I can only say that the school will be able to open doors for these models by working with other international agencies so they can get jobs and trainings abroad.

We are also opening up a fashion restaurant soon that will be the first if its kind in East Africa. It will be showcasing fashion, décor and anything related to fashion from around the world. We will be promoting our models as well, as we will be taking fashion images that will be hanging around the restaurant. The curtains and food will be fashion themed. It’s going to be jazz themed too.

I have partners from Belgium already and who I will work with to make it a venue for any fashionistas or models that will be in the country. If one wants to have any news of fashion around the world, it will be the first place to come to.