The Rwandan Fashion Industry is at the mercy of western influence and is strongly supported by the influx in imported textiles.
“Rwandans prefer foreign designs, they give more attention to outsiders,” says Amani Kalisa.
Amani tells from a gruesome eight year experience of struggling to expose her, as a professional designer.
“They will only come to me when it is party wear or a wedding. For that they will pay any amount to have. But for the casual and formal outfit, it’s really hard,” she explains.
This is evident at Amani’s fashion store at Union Trade Centre (UTC). Most of the labels on brand new clothes are of Italian designers like Pierre Cardin. Her designs labelled AMANI.K are just a handful.
She shows off a tailored office suit that doesn’t depict originality.
Around Kigali City, most of the boutiques sell western designs.
The hawkers on the streets are no exception. With second hand clothes suspended on their hands, they criss-cross Kigali City to make quick sales of imported clothes.
But this has not stopped designers from concentrating on the Rwanda traditional wear.
Amani reveals that some of her competitors have strictly concentrated on traditional designs, which she says limits the fashion profession.
“Some designers are so cultural. Yet designing is about flexibility. To be a designer requires one to sell beyond boarders,” she says.
Amani points out those inadequate finances are a stumbling block to the designers, they can barely compete internationally.
“Money is a key factor in designing. It’s needed to study climate seasons and to study clients’ tastes,” she says.
Dady de Maximo Mwicira-Mitali, views the Rwandan fashion differently. He is a professional designer, and a former model.
“Our fashion is in its youthful age, it’s undermined and discouraged by external investors who use external faces and designs when advertising,” he says.
He also blames banks for discouraging the Rwandan fashion. “They prefer big billboards with overseas models, fashion and culture,” he explains.
“Even Serena Hotel imports the beddings, table cloths…everything from abroad. No trust and chance is given to Rwandan designs,” he states.
Amidst discouragements, there is still a handful of professional designers in the country, pushing on with the fashion passion to make a mark.