Amani-K is Rwanda’s first ever fashion school
The school, named after its proprietor, Amani Kalisa, a professional textile designer and clothes maker, is located in Kigali.
As of last year, the school has been teaching students each stage of garment and accessory making, from design to final product.
Amani, 33, trained in India for five years. She realised that for those unable to study abroad there were no opportunities to learn at home.
Students, at present a total of 40, create a mixture of original garments and those that follow established fashion trends.
“[Students] are taught how to create men’s, women’s, and children’s attire, including casual wear, suits, traditional wear and bitengi,” said Amani.
After obtaining the skills, students will then be able to create design firms and create for themselves employment opportunities that will cater for quality department stores and specialty boutiques as demand for expensive and high-fashion design.
Amani has decided to explore Rwandans’ skills and create a fashion industry in the country. By all accounts, this is no easy feat. The school necessarily imports fabrics and all other equipment used to create the designs.
She also noted that the school uses cheap materials and relies on magazines to see what adjustments to the design need to be made.
“The government is not showing any signs of subsidising the school.”
Amani highlights one the major difficulties. Fashion it seems is not amongst the country’s priorities. This is perhaps understandable.
Justine Kamikazi, 35, says she does not understand the logic behind the art of fashion.
“I don’t understand the designing of all those ridiculously un-wearable designer garments.”
The Minister of Culture and Sports, Joseph Habineza, complained in a brief telephone interview, that people take it for granted that the government should do everything for them.
“We have other priorities to consider other than opening fashion schools and houses,” said Mr. Habineza. But as Amani explains, fashion is an essential component of a country’s economy and culture.
Hassan, a professional local fashion tailor, believes that “Fashion is a socio-economic issue which contributes to development of the any country.”
The birth of a fashion industry will indeed create jobs and reduce the cost of clothing in this country. And indeed there is no shortage of interest in fashion. The school was in fact born out of a clothes shop in La Bonne Addresse, Kigali, which began in 2003.
In the beginning, the shop sold clothes made by Amani herself and others which were imported. Amani recognised a gap in the market. Wanting to promote fashion and design, Amani set up the fashion school. The shop, in central Kigali, now sells exclusively items made at the school.
“And items are now much cheaper,” Amani enthuses. It has been so successful that another shop has opened in the Union Trade Centre, Kigali.
Amani and her school are upping the standard of clothes manufacturing in the country. With more people than ever before concerned with what they wear and the latest international trends, the students will hopefully be awash with employment opportunities.