She’s bubbling with passion for fashion design and when she talks about it, you feel that she was cut out to be a designer. In an interview with The New Time’s Joseph Oindo, Kevine Kagirimpundu, a fashion designer and co-founder of Uzuri K & Y Collection based in Kimihurura, Kigali talks about her passion and the future of the fashion industry in Rwanda.
When did you discover that you had passion for fashion?
The fashion bug bit me when I was relatively young in age. I remember as far back as when I was only eight years old, I could approach tailors and tell them to do something I had fashioned.
I also started working with the needles, doing Kitenge, though at that young age, you are unaware that this is the thing that you want to do with your life. It starts a like an itch though you later realise the passion had been planted long before you are old enough to be aware of it.
Is fashion design what you have been doing along ever since you discovered that this was your passion?
It’s interesting that when I was a student at FAWE Girls School, I majored in Maths, Chemistry and Biology and when I received scholarship to join former KIST, I was called to do Civil Engineering.
But I quickly changed and did creative design since this was my obsession and I’m happy that I did that for creative design gives me the energy and satisfaction I need in life.
What have been the major challenges in this field?
Before I had challenges on making sketches since I didn’t have professional experience but I learned with time. When you start at a young age, it ensures that you get the kind of professional competence that can make you overcome the challenges at a young age.
But I started serious design business when I was 20 years, though I could just do it for my family and for fun. However, it was around this time that I started learning how to sew and I remember talking to any ear that cared to listen about my infatuation with fashion design. Others chided me that I wanted to be a tailor, but I never gave up.
So when did you establish Uzuri Collection?
This was an idea that was conceived last year though it was registered officially in June this year. Together with my partner and friend, Ysolde Shimwe, we decided to take our passion to the next level by opening our own fashion shop.
We found out that we shared the same vision to be entrepreneurs in the fashion industry and we complement each other both professionally and at a personal level. Our strong bond of friendship has made us walk the long road together.
What is your take on the recently concluded Kigali Fashion Week in which Uzuri Collection took part?
The Kigali fashion week was an exciting and memorable experience for us. We were very surprised that people responded positively to our materials, something that took us by surprise since ours was just still a small baby in the market. It also emboldened us, that we are now on the right track to create something big that’s going to take this industry by storm.
The icing on the cake was when Sonia Rolland, (a reknown French model and actress) dressed in our kitenge dress and kitenge shoes.
So what makes your designs different from others?
We believe that a woman should be comfortable in her dress. We are the only people who make Kitenge shoes in the country and these shoes can be worn in any kind of weather and everywhere.
It also complements any attire. Kitenge material is also classy and we equally do classy styles. We are designers but we also listen to our clients and produce them what they want.
Who is your role model in fashion industry?
Ellie Saab. She makes unique designs, coming up with unique fabrics.
What are your future plans?
We have a long term project of taking the fashion industry in Rwanda to international level. We have already started by designing unique products that appeal to clients outside the country. Ours is a mixture of local and international materials. People love us because we love people and we are going to use our reputation to penetrate the international market.
We also plan to establish many fashion shops under one roof though now, it’s only Uzuri and Ikanzu. But more are interested to come on board.
Any other passions apart from fashion design?
Oh, I also love media design and would like to venture into media production. I’m already doing media design and in the future I want to produce a film that talks exclusively about the struggles of women. I want to use that element to inspire women.
The stereotype about women that when they gather it is just about gossiping should be a thing of the past.
What’s your take on the local fashion industry?
The fashion industry here is fast growing, unlike five years ago when we had nothing to talk about. New fashion and jewellery shops are opening at a high speed and we hope that within two years, it’s going to be a big industry.