How Rwandan fashion emerged winner at the 2018 Business Awards

RDB Business Excellence Awards 2018 winners and all who came out to support local business excellence. Photos by Emmanuel Kwizera.

About three years ago, the government introduced the Made-in-Rwanda initiative to drive the consumption of locally produced goods and services and bolster exports. It is fair to say that the enterprise has come of edge—turning out to be a custom rather than an appreciation.

Among the industries that are benefitting greatly from the Made-in-Rwanda initiative is leather and textile.

To say that the trend has picked is rather an understatement.

Uzi Collections have been Paul Frobisher Mugambwa_s (3RD FROM Right) designers for a couple of months now. Courtesy.

For instance, on Friday last week at the annual Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Business Excellence Awards, the menu was 99 per cent Made in Rwanda, save for the one per cent of those that didn’t get theirs on time or some who went African but still tried to keep close ties with the locally made outfits.

The event was colourful with the African fabrics playing a greater part to make it even nicer.

The Minister of Infrastructure & the Guest of Honor, Amb. Claver Gatete said that when these awards keep getting bigger and better it is a sign that the private sector is growing.

Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer of RDB, who donned on the Moshions Rwanda dress, commended the “spirit of pride” showcased by those who wore locally made clothes to celebrate business growth in Rwanda.

We talked to a few of those that attended the award gala to share with us who designed their outfits.

Innocent Muhizi (L) bought his shirt from a Nigeria designer. Courtesy.

Jean Marie Vianney Habiyaremye, founder of Cow Horn Rwanda and winner of the Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

“My suit was designed by a tailor called Nyandwi in the City Market. He is a seasoned tailor and a good designer. I asked him to get me something nice that would complement my skin texture; I think I looked great (laughs)?” Habiyaremye told The New Times.

He also said that much as most of the textile and fabric is not produced locally, the trend will soon reverse once the local population begins to adopt locally designed clothing.

This, he said, will increase supply from local fashion brands.

“From my experience, we have many people who are capable of producing good and quality products locally. Most fabric might not be produced locally but that will also be possible as demand for locally designed outfits increase.”

Innocent Bulindi, CEO of BDF and one of the judges for the awards was styled by Iriza Fabrics.

“There is a feel-good factor wearing locally designed outfit. But we should move on from designing to manufacturing the fabric and textile locally. That will significantly affect affordability and consumption behaviour and contribute to the growth of Made-in-Rwanda initiative.”

Uzi Collections have been Paul Frobisher Mugambwa’s designers for a couple of months now.

Mugambwa, the Associate Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and one of the Judges for the awards told The New Times, Uzi Collection have always given him “excellent” outfit with quality fabric.

“Since some African countries, especially in West Africa have embraced their fashion trends, I find it timely that we not only embrace ours but support our fashion designers because they have simple, modest and originality about what they do,” he said.

As for Innocent B Muhizi, CEO of Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), his shirt was bought in Nigeria and he was “proud” to put on something produced within the region as this would in one way inspire local designers or send signal on how African feel proud of the crafts done by their own.

“I bought the shirt from Nigeria. But the beauty about this growing trend about Africanism is that you will buy some nice product produced from West African and you will proud splashing it because it is produced regionally and it will inspire someone who will see if for the first time.

The 2018  RDB Business Excellence Awards Service Provider of the Year is Legacy Clinics and Diagnostics.  

Slowly, that’s how the African market will become wider as we learn to appreciate what we can produce by ourselves,” Muhizi said.

Shivon Byamukama, Deputy CEO of Babyl Rwanda bought her dress about 3 years ago from, “an enthusiastic young lady who had set up a clothing line in the city centre.

“I can’t remember the name but one thing that struck me was the quality of the fabric and the attention that lady paid to her art in designing the clothes. Surely, we need to support and promote our local designers because they are as good as or better than any other out there,”

Aline Kabanda, Executive Director of Akilah Institute got her dress from a female tailor in Kimironko.

Ms. Akamazi Claire reported that In 2018, RDB for the first time registered investments worth US$ 2.006 billion, an increase of 20% when compared to those registered in 2017. 

“I made my dress from a local artisan; I think the fabric is nice and affordable. I like the fact that African fabric is colourful and pretty trendy. In the context of Rwanda, our designs are brilliant and graceful and I think we should be encouraged to even wear traditional attire to work because they give us a sense of pride and belonging,” she said.

Kabanda also urged local designers to be “try as much to be accessible and affordable if they are grow,”

The 2018  RDB Business Excellence Awards Young Entrepreneur of the Year is Cow Horns Ltd.

As for Patrick B Nsenga, CEO of AC Group, Moshions made the shirt and, he says, “It’s really good in comparison with imported clothes.”

“I didn’t feel any difference when it came to comfort, neatness and design. Moshions is actually doing a really good job and the designs just keep getting better,” he added.