2013: The highs and lows in Rwanda’s fashion industry

2013 was an exceptional year in Rwanda’s fashion industry, a year that saw new designers, fashion houses and, of course, new designs hit the local market.
The year 2013 saw new fashion and design trends with glamorous catwalks at various venues in Kigali. This has endeared more and more Kigalians to the growing industry. Photos/Plais....
The year 2013 saw new fashion and design trends with glamorous catwalks at various venues in Kigali. This has endeared more and more Kigalians to the growing industry. Photos/Plais....

2013 was an exceptional year in Rwanda’s fashion industry, a year that saw new designers, fashion houses and, of course, new designs hit the local market.

Despite the fact that Rwanda’s fashion industry remains in its infancy, we can now say that it’s at a take-off stage, and it is during this year that we saw local designers showcasing their collections outside the country at such events like Rwanda Day in London and Toronto, and other events in different corners of the world.

At such events, fashion houses like Teta Isibo’s Inzuki Designs gained international acclaim. 

Outfits made from the kitenge and leather stole the show this year with designers putting a modern and corporate touch to the two fabrics.

For years the kitenge was seen as a preserve for old people, but designers like Francis Iraguha of Zahabu thinks differently, having upgraded the fabric to suit all occasions in metropolitan society.

Several fashion designers showcased their artwork at various fashion shows that were organized throughout the year, with the Kigali Fashion Week arguably the best locally organised event of the year, having attracted designers from all over the world.

Held in November, Kigali Fashion Week was graced by former Miss France and model Sonia Rolland, who modeled clothes for different international fashion houses.

The event was organised by a team from LDJ Production, the organisers of New York Fashion Week, a team that was led by John Bunyeshuli.

The main event, held at Kigali Serena Hotel, was preceded by a fashion tour where Kigali Fashion Week hosted series of exhibitions featuring various designers in the country.

On the eve of the event, the organisers treated fashion designers and lovers of fashion to a memorable cocktail at Ikanzu, Kimuhurura where people from diverse backgrounds met and shared fashion ideas.

The event attracted a host of local designers, including Cynthia Rupari of Rupari Agency, Patrick Muhire of Ikanda, and Colombe Ndituye of Inco Icusa, Candy Basomingera and Sonia Mugabo of Afrikana Exquisiteness, and Ysolde Shimwe and Kevine Kagirimpundu of Uzuri K&Y.

The Rwanda Fashion Upgrade was also among the fashion shows that were well attended during the year.

It exhibited different varieties of materials and fabrics that demonstrated how the Rwandan fashion industry has evolved over the years.

Jeanine Dusabe, a model who has participated in almost all the fashion shows that were on calendar this year, said the cultural fashion show was the worst fashion event of the year.

“The Cultural Fashion Show was the worst organised event. You see with these shows preparation is very key, you will need many things like good lighting, good stage, I mean many things but all this was not done at the cultural fashion show and the whole event was a mess,” she said.

Kolbe Hatega is an upcoming fashion designer who is fighting hard to start his own fashion house. He says Rwanda’s fashion industry is steadily growing with 2013 registering a big success.

He, however, says that there is need to give platform to young, upcoming designers to showcase their talent and also enhance professionalism in the industry.

“Unlike 2012 where fashion was seen as a luxury, there was lack of awareness as people didn’t know much about fashion, 2013 was rather the opposite, it was really great people understood the concept, designers had improved collections,” said John Bunyeshuli.

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