Candy Basomingera has been pasionate about designing since her teenage years, while living in Brussels, Belgium.
However, it never crossed her mind that she would one day become a fashion designer by profession, especially since she knew she would move back to Rwanda where the fashion industry then was almost non existent.
She strongly believed that she would follow a career in international development working with NGOs and big institutions like the UN-that is why she studied international relations at university.
Basomingera first worked in Kinshasa where she fell in love with local fabrics and bought a sewing machine. She would draw clothing designs that a local tailor would then implement. In 2009, she moved to Rwanda where she worked in public health for three years, but continued to draw her own outfits for fun.
She would always receive compliments on what she was wearing and everyone around her always wanted to know more about the designer. It is in the summer of 2013 when a woman she knew asked her to make her wedding dress that she realised there was a real opportunity in there.
“My creative side was not being exploited enough in the job I was doing. This was a creative call for me. I needed to do something that would fit my personality better,” she says.
With the idea that creativity now meant business, she started her own fashion brand called ‘Baso’ in September 2013, making blazers and custom-made clothing.
2013, in fact, is a key date for the Rwandan fashion industry. That year’s Kigali fashion week brought many emerging fashion designers forward who, with the right support, were able to put on an impressive show.
“It was a real boost for us. People started thinking that great things can be done locally and a whole new fashion movement was created,” reveals Basomingera with a lot of enthusiasm.
A couple of months later, she met her business associate, Linda Mukangoga, who designed bags and jewellery. The quality, finition, and taste of Mukangoga’s products impressed Basomingera. In March 2014, they merged their respective brands to create ‘Haute baso’ based on the belief that “two heads are better than one”.
“We create clothing that is accessible, outfits that we would wear ourselves, as we thought that that was something which was lacking in Rwanda,” reveals Basomingera.
“Our collections are influenced by the West as we both grew up there but also by Africa, and Rwandan tradition more specifically. You can see that in our cuts, in the way we organise fabrics and the colours we use.”
The idea is also to use fashion as a vehicle for positive change for young girls and women by creating job opportunities, and developing their creativity and self-esteem through workshops and mentorship programmes.
“I want these young girls to see that you can be both young and a woman and have a dream or vision that you can accomplish successfully as an entrepreneur.”
In addition to promoting women empowerment, the fashion designers make sure that their operations are ethical. The artisans they work with are paid a fair wage based on their own rates. They get local and international exposure and room for developing their creative skills.
At the moment, the designers are working on their new collection which will be ready soon. Expect a lot of ‘Imigongo’ influences as this is Basomingera’s favourite art form and a great source of inspiration.
“At Haute baso, we want to give visibility to traditional Rwandan art and contemporary fashion. We want people abroad to see the beauty of what can be done locally, in Rwanda!” says Basomingera.