Born and raised in Kinshasa, DRC, Germaine Mwananawe Bugingo studied and worked in South Africa and the UK and is currently raising a family in Dubai where her husband works.
She fell in love with many African traditional attires and set up a clothing line ‘Moi for you’ in 2016 to help brides adorn their traditional wear with elegance and beauty.
Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa met her at the East African Wedding show a few weeks ago, where she talked about her passion and inspiration for traditional wear.
Tell us how you got started?
I was always doing something for myself, and everybody was admiring me. I would design my own dress and customise it and people would often recommend that I put on sale.
Being a mother of two boys, when they got a little older, I started my three projects and when people asked for dresses, I started to make my own designs. I love traditional dresses and they are my passion, especially Imishanana because they are ours. I cannot just buy material, tailor it and sell it. I like to embellish it, bring a little life and art to it; I like to give it more identity, and that’s what I do for my line of Imishanana.
I also do the same for the Ugandan Gomesi, and Imyenda and DRC’s Likuta, the traditional wax. When I was growing up it was different but I like its identity.
What is it like running a business in Rwanda in Dubai?
With the help of online platforms, surrounding friends and family, I get a lot orders from America and Canada and I want to put our energy on each piece that I am selling. I try to consult my clients, the bride-to-be, and I come up with the concept for her. If she is not traditional then I propose a modern concept for her.
Did you do training for this or this was your creativity?
I have a background in mathematics and physics and at university, I studied marketing management, but I have been passionate about clothes since I was young. I’ve never studied sewing or design. I am pursuing a course to equip me with the skills to run a professional clothing line because I want to make it more proficient and take it outside Africa for people to admire it. And also to work with each country’s traditional attire and give it easy identity.
There are so many designers in the business of bridal Imishanana, how does Moi for you stand out?
I don’t think people do designs of Imishana, they buy material and sew it. I think I came up with the concept of embellishing our Imishanana. It’s not something to put on every day, it’s meant to be for the bride’s big day and embellished to the taste of the bride and how she wants to stand out. Some brides are shy and prefer simplicity, others want to shine, and I help them achieve that look.
As a Rwandan, what inspired you to reach out to other traditional attires?
My background. I have been to many places in Africa and I treasured everything I saw. I can design the traditional attires of Kinshasa, and they have many tribes but I know every traditional design. And South Africa, I know all their traditional attires. My husband is from Uganda, so I know theirs, and Kenya’s Masai traditional bit, as well.
What are some of the challenges that you face in this kind of business?
I make my art and people want to copy it, which is a big challenge. I don’t know how to protect myself in this field. I think we need to find ways to secure ourselves.
How do you envision the future of Moi for you?
I pray to God to take me farther than I think because I have a lot of visions for ‘Moi for you’ in the line of traditional designs, Djellaba, and casual smart. I like it when at weddings, invited guests put effort to please the person who invited them by how they dress. My brand came from African taste, European taste and Asian taste and so each piece you see is a touch of these. I am also working on my website and I have shops to present my work in Kigali, Kampala, Senegal and Kinshasa.