Aline Mukamusoni is a young fashionista making a difference in the fashion industry by using beads as raw material to add imaginativeness to diverse attire. Though it’s a business, it’s mostly a passion, and has taught her patience. Imagine how long it would take to connect one bead to another to make a handbag. She is the founder and the CEO of Amike fashion company, located in Kicukiro. Her brand has been able to improve due to her growth which gave her a different perception of her work. “My confidence around my brand was not high at all when I started because I was scared that people could not get it and they didn’t in the beginning. How could they? I didn’t even have enough strength to stand by it. It was only after I appreciated my work enough that I put in strength which showed in the way I presented it to other people,” she says. Though she has always loved fashion, her entry point in the fashion business did not have many options in terms of materials used to make accessories and garments. What she brings is presenting the possibility of an alternative especially for those who are bold and find satisfaction in edgy pieces. The fashion designer stresses that using beads to make clothes, bags and other wearable art pieces gives the client a chance to be bold, unique, extra and elegant at the same time. “Comfort is key. The client’s vision when it comes to costume is not too much. There are hundreds of patterns to be invented and there are no rules, therefore, anything that can be imagined can be beaded.” Love for fashion She has always liked looking good. To her, it’s a form of self-love and expression. Growing up in Nyamagabe District in Southern Province, she wondered what the criteria of choosing “imyenda yo kuzindukana” or church clothes was. Mukamusoni thought any clothes could be for church if they were clean and one felt smart in them. For her, dressing for occasions is socially binding. She started sewing, making clothes for dolls made out of plastic bags. “I found solace in them and though I didn’t know at the time, they were my way of expressing myself in terms of fashion. What I thought I liked was inspired by what was around me. You can’t create from a void and I think that living in different parts of the country helped me accumulate a big amount of knowledge where I could draw inspiration from,” she notes. The fashion designer notes that this created a bigger scope for her to imagine starting from somewhere and that’s how she was introduced to beaded accessories as a luxury that could be adorned by anyone. While attending High school in Ghana in 2016, there was a woman at her school who taught students how to bead, since the process really took a long time, not many people were interested. Mukamusoni didn’t find beading appealing, but since she was in her final year and wanted to take an extracurricular activity that no one took seriously, she ended up falling in love with it. “We were only two students in the beading club, and the lady was able to concentrate on each of us thoroughly. Beading became a great outlet during the time I was waiting for my grades. It calmed me and gave me space to think of other positive things. Later, when I thought of starting a fashion brand, I couldn’t think of anything else to work with as a material that created a safe space for me,” she says. Difficulties One of the challenges the fashionista is encountering is undervaluing manual work in the wake of advanced technology. Mukamusoni stresses that prospective clients tend to underestimate the amount of work, time and passion poured into pieces that are handmade which makes them think that the crafts are overcharged. This sometimes slows the selling process and creates doubts, however, it’s enough for her to know that she is on the right path and those who don’t understand just don’t. She is targeting an audience of people who love beads or those who love uniqueness. Future projects At the moment, she is organising a workshop in Kigali that will teach people how pieces are made as well as letting them try out for themselves. The long term goal with this is to show people how complex handcraft can be and how much it consumes one’s time so they can respect the art and contribute to reviving this form of art, which has been a big part of our culture. The local fashion industry in her eyes “The fashion industry in Rwanda is growing like a healthy baby that eats what it’s fed. At the moment, there is great feedback and an increase in people who understand and love the art. It’s better than it was a few years ago and I am both proud and happy to be part of it. She would like to see more people thinking outside the box and bringing new creations and designs but not replicating what has already been produced.