THE year 2017 saw substantial transformation in the local fashion industry propelled by the Made-in-Rwanda campaign.
Local designers made an impression not only on the local scene, but also on the international arena. From local fashion shows, to international runway shows, Rwanda was represented.
As the year comes to an end, we look at some of the fashion moments that defined 2017:
Kigali Fashion Week (KFW)
The Kigali Fashion Week that took place in February at Kigali Serena Hotel was worth the hype it generated in the build up to the event. The high turn up added some sparkle to the event. Guests had enough to optically feast on as designers served sizzling styles during the 7th edition of the annual event.
Organised by the CEO John Bunyeshuri, the show featured a total of 17 designers, both international and local. Designers came from Sweden, Japan, USA, Canada, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi with their designs ranging from casual, corporate to wedding attire and swim suits.
Tradition and creativity were evident although the African print (kitenge) was the most commonly used. For some designers, it was well matched and blended with other fabrics to give a modern look.
The fashion industry also saw new brands emerging. These include Ikwiize, which was established in January this year, with the launched of its first two major shows at Kigali Fashion Week, and CollectiveRW Fashion show.
Ikwiize was born out of a merger between two different fashion lines; Swav, a retail textile and fashion accessories store that has been running in Kigali for the last six years and Qaal Designs, contemporary Islamic clothing brand by the Somali-American fashion designer Nimco Adam Qaal.
KFW later signed a partnership with a Belgium-based company Berex Invest Corporation, to boost its global reach by organising a ‘Made-in-Rwanda’ tour in partnership with KFW.
The launch that attracted over 500 guests was a success in the cities of London and Manchester.
Held at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village, this year’s edition of Collective RW Fashion Week was bigger and better than the inaugural edition staged last year, with the runway featuring at least ten designers both local and international.
The event was organised by Collective RW, an umbrella organisation of local fashion houses, in collaboration with Illume Creative Studio.
The founding members that exhibited are Haute Baso, House of Tayo, Inzuki Designs, and Sonia Mugabo while the new members that showcased their collections were Amizero, which was first on the runway with its extensive snow white collection; Moshions, Ikwiize, Afriek and Uzi Collections.
Internationally acclaimed South African fashion trend setter Laduma Maxhosa also displayed his sensational and colourful Xhosa-inspired knitwear. His was one of the most outstanding collections, on a night that had its fair share of African prints (Kitenge).
The designers came together to strengthen, promote, and develop the fashion industry in Rwanda by fostering talent, originality, and representation at the local, regional, and international scene.
The fashion happy hour also featured a live art demonstration by the designer Cedric Mizero and his team, and a live music session by A Ka Dope with artists from several countries.
Early this month, six Rwanda-based brands that form the Collective RW, Inzuki Designs, Sonia Mugabo, Haute Baso and Uzi Collection, as well as House of Tayo and Moshions showcased their designs at their first Nairobi pop-up at the Tribe Hotel, Nairobi. It is part of their target to hold Collective RW fashion shows in different cities across the world.
They were hosted and sponsored by HEVA, an East African fund that invests in the transformative social and economic potential of the creative economy sector in the East African region.
Sonia Mugabo and Teta Isibo named among the 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa in 2017 by Forbes.
Kids Fashion Show
In February this year, Joselyn Umutoniwase celebrated the 5th anniversary of her brand- Rwanda Clothing. The private show was attended by several guests including her clients, friends, family, and fellow designers. Held at Business Professionals Network (BPN) offices in Kacyiru, it featured a fashion show, where the brand’s latest collections were displayed by young and adult models.
The private fashion show also was to celebrate the loyalty of her clients, who have stood with her for the last five years. The brand specialises in colourful print designs and blends African fabric with international styles.
Disability is Not Inability Fashion Show
Models in wheelchairs and on clutches rocked the catwalk as they showcased the latest creations by local fashion designers in an event, held at Mulindi Japan One Love grounds in Gasabo District. The show featured outfits designed in traditional wear, Ankara and costume designs.
Dubbed ‘Disability is Not Inability Fashion Show’, the show was held in collaboration with Talent Group and East African Nights of Tolerance.
The event attracted participants from 12 countries including Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon and hosts Rwanda. It aimed at creating a life-without-limits for people with disabilities. The main objective of the event was to empower persons with disabilities, and to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity and well-being of persons with disabilities through fashion.
“Strong Women” photo exhibition.
During his ‘Fashion for All’ tour, Cédric Mizero met several women in the western part of the country, and his experience with them, inspired a photo shoot with photographer Chris Schwagga, to make his “Strong Women” exhibition.
The exhibition was an artistic installation featuring photography, fashion, and “feminine strength, energy, and responsibility.”
On the international scene,
Fashion designer Olivier Niyitanga, aka Gucci Tanga, was Rwanda’s only representative at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Cape Town, South Africa, held in July.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week events are recognised as being the most lavish and prestigious on the continent. Only the most established designers and the best emerging creatives are handpicked and invited to showcase the next season’s collections.
The Mercedes Benz African Fashion Festival 2017 Accra Ghana was produced by a Rwandan organization Fashion Consultant Cooperation mostly known as the producers of Kigali Fashion Week.
The Rwanda-Ghana fashion and textile initiative was also launched, with both Fashion Consultant Cooperation (Rwanda) and Global Ovations the organisers of Mercedes Benz African Fashion Festival (Ghana). It involved cultural exchange between Ghana and Rwanda through fashion and textile.