Joselyne Umutoniwase is the founder of Rwanda Clothing Home Ltd, a company she started in 2010. She specialises in colourful print designs and blends African fabric with international styles. Sharon Kantengwa asked her a few questions regarding the industry.
Everyone has to start from somewhere. What was your first job?
I was a film maker for six years after I finished high school. I did it because I’m a person who wants to express myself, but I found it different from what I really wanted, which is why I ventured into fashion design.
How would you describe fashion?
Fashion is a way of expressing your inner self and telling your message without having to talk about it. We dress up according to how we feel about ourselves and people can understand our message and mood through our fashion sense.
What sparked your passion for fashion?
I wanted to express myself and have an individual way of dressing to stand out. By pleasing myself and pleasing others, I felt that I wanted to do more and dig deeper into fashion. This, however, took me a very long time to decide that it was what I wanted to do as a career.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learnt since you ventured into fashion?
I have learnt that it’s not as easy as many people think, because even when we have many ideas; we have to prove our capabilities. Having taken long to start a career in design, I also learned that starting small is the best way as you tend to grow with it. You don’t have to limit yourself, but seize any opportunity that comes your way and start from where you can manage.
What sparks your creative juices?
It’s everyday life. It helps me become occupied because when you are creative you don’t force yourself to do certain things, it comes naturally.
What is your latest fashion project?
The latest is very simple but with a lot of hand touch. They are complicated pieces which look simple but actually take many hours to do. I’m also working with patterns and semi couture and the finish look is very unique and easy to wear.
How do you become inspired by certain designers?
I compare myself to other women designers because I believe in the power of women and I’m inspired by the story behind that personality.
What makes you unique from other designers?
I am a really passionate person and I never design to make a lot of money but I do it as a way of expressing myself and offering what I have to the world.
What, according to you, is the best part about being a fashion designer?
The best part of it is to really communicate with people. People come with dreams, stories and personalities. It’s interesting to know their past, their present and their aspirations.
Why do you think that the fashion industry is not keen on embracing plus size models?
The image of slender models is what we found there and it’s a standard that has been set for a very long time and therefore, hard to push it. With plus size models, it’s not easy to adjust the designs and it takes a lot of time. Most of my clients are not models but the designs are made in a way that they can be adjusted to anybody.
How do you stay up to date regarding fashion?
These days with the Internet, it’s very easy to know all the fashion trends and watch fashion shows with just a click. But for me, I don’t work with trends. I work with what my clients want, which is sometimes different with the trend. The trend, however, helps one become open minded so that when someone asks for it, you are ready to deliver.
What do you think is the important facet of the fashion industry?
Designers should have a good eye for fashion and be able to dream. You need to be curious like a child so that you can have ideas and also have fun with it and become open minded. You can’t do a number of collections if you are bored with your work.
How would you describe your personal style?
My style is simple but with a modern touch, feminine and well fitted, depending on the mood. I don’t venture into crazy stuff because it doesn’t match my personality.
How would you relate past and present fashion trends?
They are always connected, like a circle. Designers don’t create new things but adjust what has been there to go with the moment. You cannot make a dress that has never been made but you learn to relate with the moment according to someone and the country.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want Rwanda Clothing to keep growing but mostly, I want to give knowledge to people. I want to focus on semi couture and to empower people and make people happy with my fashion designs.