Local designers get nod from Japanese fashion guru


A Japanese model walks down runway at the Tokyo Africa Collection 2018. (Courtesy photos)

On his recent visit to Rwanda, Japanese fashion enthusiast Leo Sugo was impressed by the quality of collections produced by the local designers. Little wonder he has pledged to promote Rwandan made designs on the international market, through the annual fashion show, Tokyo Africa Collection, in Japan. However, no Rwandan designer has ever participated in the show, and Sugo wants to partner with the local designers to partake in the annual runway show. Sugo shared with The New Times, about his future plans for the local designers.


What is your perception of Rwanda’s fashion industry?

Before I visited Rwanda, my knowledge on the country’s fashion industry was limited, because there is almost no information of Rwandan fashion industry in Japan. But after my trip here, this year, I discovered that there is a number of talented designers (not tailors), and there are interesting projects like Kigali Fashion Week in Europe.  I saw huge potential in the industry.

What projects do you have for Rwanda’s fashion designers/models?

I am working on two main projects right now. One is to invite Rwandan designers (possibly models as well) to Tokyo Africa Collection to showcase their collections. Until now, Tokyo Africa Collection has employed young Japanese designers, who design clothes based on the research and interviews with African people.

But I want African designers to tell their own stories through this fashion show, and I believe the show can attract more attention from Japanese people.

Another project is to organise a tour and workshops in Rwanda in 2019, where both aspiring Japanese and local designers will share experience and skills.

Tokyo Africa Collection fashion show is said to be inspired by African stories.  

What can Rwandan fashion designers expect from ‘Tokyo Africa Collection’ fashion show?

Japanese fashion market is huge. Right now, Japanese don’t know about the Rwandan fashion industry, but this would be an opportunity for them to showcase and sell their brands in Japan.

I have held talks with John Bunyeshuri, the founder of the Kigali Fashion Week, about future collaborations between Kigali Fashion Week and Tokyo Africa Collection.

Leo Sugo, founder of Tokyo Africa Collection, wants to partner with Rwandan designers to promote locally made designs in Japan and on the international market.