Emmanuel Chris Niyokwizerwa, also known as Chris Gentle, is an emerging fashion designer and illustrator in Rwanda.
Having completed high school in 2016, the 22-year-old wanted to be actively involved in an occupation despite lacking experience.
Though he lacked experience, he was passionate about joining the fashion industry drawn by the fact that it ever on demand.
He started putting aside some savings to enable him to pursue his ambition.
One of Chris Niyokwizerwa’s tailors working on a client’s order. Courtesy photos.
By 2018, he had collected Rwf 200,000 that he used to start a local company in Kicukiro known as Umulinga fashion Rwanda Limited, which specializes in sketching and designing top-quality African Attires for both men and women.
“Starting this company wasn’t easy because I had no experience as I had never taken any course in tailoring and design. However, through research from a number of tailors, I was equipped with some knowledge I needed for the start,” he said.
He initially was attracted to collaborating with different designers, but over time noticed they had different visions, thus deciding to start his own business.
Niyokwizerwa had no shop to produce cloth ware in the beginning, but he would work with tailors and sell online. He made the most of social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook.
Emmanuel Chris Niyokwizerwa poses for a photo in his designs.
“All didn’t move smoothly for me, I lacked the capital to buy machines to run my business. Working with tailors was disappointing at a time as some were not experts in what they did. At times there would be delays on client orders which made me lose some customers,” he noted.
He also said, even though he was discouraged by people that he wasn’t experienced in what he was doing, it didn’t stop him from moving forward.
Over time, he has proven himself in the industry and is now recognized in the designing field having been able to secure contracts from different companies and clients.
He is self-employed at just 22 years, earns a living is gaining experience in fashion designing and customer care and is working to satisfy the market.
He has employed a number of young Rwandans and he is looking forward to employ more as demand for his product grows.
He is also keen to train colleagues to gain experience and expand their knowledge and provide opportunities for young talents to compete and gain exposure in the fashion industry of Rwanda.
“I would say that my dream of making an impact to the fashion industry of Rwanda has come true and I have contributed to the development of my country through the campaign of Made in Rwanda,” said the designer.
In a month, I can get about 100 clients or more, he said.
“I am glad that I have designed outfits for a number of celebrities like Mani martin, Mc Tino, Victor Rukotana, Nick-dimpoz, Patient Bizimana, different groups of people, Yago (Tv10 presenter), Tressor Channel (Tv10 presenter), among others,” he stated.
His brand has been advertised in Rwanda Cultural Fashion show and Mercedes Benz Fashion Show.
Niyokwizerwa explained that his turning point came when he realized that it was possible to achieve a dream that people thought was impossible to accomplish. He said that this makes him conscious that he has to always push his limitations.
For the fashion industry, he said that it’s a developing industry with the young generation keen to show their talents.
However, he noted, there is a problem of raw materials in the country hence high prices of finished products. The further called on the government to maintain support to the sector to enable them to grow further.