In 2017, Kanyana Nadine, 23, took a bold decision. She had been studying sciences with a vision to major in computer programs coding and Information Technology but decided to drop it all and pursue fashion.
“My family was supportive but not all my friends could understand why I did not pursue IT as everybody anticipated and decided to join fashion,” she said.
At first, Kanyana was uncertain if making clothes would work out as a business so she kept it only as a hobby and went to school to major in IT.
When she started, she would only use her sewing machine at home and make clothes for her family and friends. That, however, changed when Kanyana hesitantly contested in Art Rwanda Ubuhanzi in 2017 and was shortlisted among the best.
“Never in a million years did I imagine that I would make it among the top in the fashion category,” she excitedly said.
Kanyana was shortlisted among the top 10 finalists in Fashion category.
After contesting, her and other winners were put into an incubation programme for fashion training and how to turn fashion into a profitable business. The incubation lasted for weeks and has given Kanyana “a life-changing experience.”
During the incubation programme, which is still ongoing, involving over 70 artists, Kanyana has been given an opportunity to produce a range of products under professional supervision and easily access the market. She now has a brand called ‘Kanyana Brand’ with a growing clientele.
Apart from customized orders, Kanyana’s clothes are exhibited at Art Rwanda Ubuhanzi showroom at Kigali Business Center (KBC).
A challenged vision
Kanyana is inspired by her strong passion for fashion and one of her signature touch to her clothes is an old-fashion style from the 1970s which she loves.
“I have always loved making clothes but mostly thrifting them and making DIY (Do It Yourself) projects. Those were my favorite things to do since my childhood. I would always transform my clothes and revamp old ones.” She said.
However, it bothers her that there are negative mindset around sewing in Rwanda.
“I am not only a designer but also a tailor. It’s sad how sewing is associated with illiteracy. Many people think sewing is the last resort when one failed at school, which is wrong. In fact, if literate people did it, it would be an even bigger business,” she said.
Such mindset are one of the challenges that Kanyana faces and she thinks if not changed, it would make it difficult for her and other aspiring ‘fashionistas’ to grow.
One of Kanyana’s dreams is to take her Brand on the international level and showcase what Rwandans are capable of in the fashion scene. Although finding affordable resources and raw materials is still a challenge, she believes with the current efforts put into Made in Rwanda products, such issues will unravel.
Fashion is an emerging sector
Although there are already significant fashion brands on the Rwandan market, Kanyana is not concerned about competition because the nature of the industry is growing.
“In fashion, everyone has their own signature, specialty and own targeted clients. There is no confrontational competition like other businesses. Small businesses learn from big ones and work on their specialty and that brings a lot of opportunities for young people investing in fashion,” she explains.
It takes her at least a day to sew two dresses that earn her Rwf20, 000. Before she contested in Art Rwanda Ubuhanzi, she would get one order in a week which grown to three orders per day currently.Follow Ange_Iliza