Upon graduation from the National University of Rwanda (Business Information Technology) in 2012, Felix Habimana landed his first job at Banque Populaire du Rwanda. He worked at the bank until November 2016.
“There was a restructuring exercise and I was one of the employees that were affected. For me, it was the perfect opportunity to start working on my project,” explains the 30-year-old.
Habimana, the brain behind the KGL fashion brand, explains that he had been toying with the idea of starting his own fashion label since 2012.
“Since I was a child, I used to watch music videos and I realised that the stars wore caps with inscriptions like LA (Los Angeles), and NYC (New York City) to promote their home cities. Then I started asking myself, why can’t we as Rwandans also promote our own city? So I took a pencil and started brainstorming with myself how the brand would look like,” he explains the inspiration behind the venture.
The brand’s signature logo is the letters, KGL, which appear as inscriptions on all their products. KGL is short for Kigali.
To realize the venture, Habimana teamed up with a friend, Desire Tuyishimire, with whom he studied at the National University of Rwanda. Together, they own a company called DCIB (Dawn Central Investment Bureau), located in Kacyiru. DCIB is the company through which the two young entrepreneurs trade the KGL brand.
“When you go to register a brand at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) they ask you to create a company and then register the brand in the company’s name,” explains Habimana.
He adds that their main objective at the moment is to “put Kigali on the clothing industry scene.”
“We are also trying to put the brand in showbiz, by dealing with music labels like New Level, and we’re in talks with the video producer Medy Saleh.
“First, I like showbiz in general and I’m a patriot. I love my country Rwanda. So I chose this line of business because not only does it promote the image of the country, but with enough patience it will give me lots of money, hopefully,” Habimana says.
But cracking the local music and showbiz industry for business has not been easy, he laments.
“We would have loved to work with many big local music stars, but their terms and conditions are too high for us at the moment. So instead we have started off with upcoming talents.
At the moment, the KGL brand can be found at Kigali International Airport, at the Masha Boutique in town, and at the duo’s own shop in Nyamirambo, a city suburb.
Yet there is still more work to put in.
“We have written letters to the City of Kigali requesting for some help. I believe that even if it’s my idea, it will promote the image of the city in general. We want them to help us take this brand to the tourism department because when foreigners come to Rwanda they usually want to return home with some souvenirs,” he says.
Habimana’s other plea is addressed to local celebrities. “Just like they ask local radio and TV stations to play their songs so that people can listen to them, I ask our celebrities to support our local brands by wearing them in their music videos because I think it’s inappropriate for a Rwandan star to wear foreign brands like LA or NY.”