Belgian based accountant keen to extend Rwandan designs on international scene

Aline Nizerwa grew up in Belgium and returned to Rwanda last year to launch her clothing line, ‘Maison Aline’.

Although she is an accountant by profession, Nizerwa is passionate about haute couture and has made it her dream. Maison Aline aims at educating the youth in the art of couture, engaging their creativity, and creatingemployment.

She talked to Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa about her plans for her project.

Tell us about your project, Maison Aline?

 When I began my brand Maison Aline, the inspiration was haute couture because my dream is to have Made-in-Rwanda haute couture that is internationally recognised, but also for young designers to have good knowledge about the designs, especially the details.

 Rwanda is not really known for haute couture fashion, if you compare it say to West African countries, and some designers do not really pay attention to the finishing.

If you find a good seamstress or tailor, the clothes may look good on the outside while the inner tailoring is something different, yet they are both very important.

With my project, I would like to work with about two retired tailors that have experience with haute couture, and can teach young people, from the basics, so that they can do good clothes with high end details.

 You have a background in accounting, what inspired a start-up in apparel?

The art of couture is one that requires a lot experience in creating and making cloths from textile to end a wearable piece of clothing. The creation process, however, should involve people’s ability to envision the piece of clothing and conceptually draw it prior to collecting the materials necessary to realise the vision.

 This project is necessary, because after some research, we could see that there was no follow-up in this area yet young people are doing the best they can to survive.

The lucky ones find a tailor or seamstress who teaches them the job, which usually means working quickly and not really paying attention to quality and detail.

 Many young people have contacted me on Facebook and want me to help them and teach them professional sewing, so I know that there are young people especially single mothers that this project can help.

I would like to start with 10 people but mostly those who have some knowledge on tailoring and depending on the place and the budget, I can then add some more people.

What has been the progress of this project so far?

I started last year with just my smart phone and at the start you don’t get money quickly so I am trying to find investors so that I can grow the business since I already have a place to rent and hold workshops.

With the help of professionals we can teach these young people but I also need machines to aid them.

I have my own clothes that I designed and most of my clients are international, but when I get more clients I will have a bigger budget and not just wait for investors.

Right now I have only one machine and the place is not so big, I can only help about five people.

A model showcasing one of Aline’s collections. Courtesy photo. 

How do you envision this project? And how do you want it to work?

As a start-up, the accumulated funds will be used to set up the workshop and convey our practices to all the youth that are interested in fashion. Our purpose is to involve as many youths as possible in order to make the biggest impact in the community.

We hope to gradually grow the business in order to accommodate more young people and acquire professionals that are capable to facilitate them with the necessary education to realise their ambitions.

Once the training is over, we could offer them a job or a big workshop where they can make clothes for national and international markets or with the experience gained, they can set up their own business and single mothers will improve the lives of their family.

Tell me about your passion for haute couture?

I actually don’t know how the passion came about, because I don’t even sow the clothes. I design something and ask someone to sow it that way. My love for haute couture comes from my childhood, because my parents made an effort to clothe me in haute couture.