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Clothes Encounters In Kigali

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The Collective Rwanda (RW) Week of Fashion wrapped up its inaugural edition with a successful press launch, several ‘business of fashion’ seminars and a sparkling evening of runway shows that saw the latest collections from local designers showcased to an array of esteemed guests, including Rwanda’s First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, and her daughter Ange Kagame.

In attendance too was an excited, style-savvy crowd.

In what was a highly-anticipated debut, the fashion event took place at the five-star Kigali Serena Hotel, hosted by Collective RW (a creative collaboration founded in 2015 by the city’s local designers Sonia Mugabo, Teta Isibo, Matthew Rugamba, Linda Mukangoga and Candy Basomingera) in partnership with Journal Rw and national airline RwandAir.

With the aim to promote ‘Made In Rwanda’ fashion and encourage collaboration within the African fashion industry, the week of fashion saw no shortage of contemporary, bold, and colorful collections from all the featured designers, against the backdrop of ‘teamwork makes the dream work’. FORBES WOMAN AFRICA was present too; here’s a report of the highlights:

Haute Baso

Having ventured into the world of fashion precisely because it offers the freedom to transform ideas into pieces that can be shared with an audience, the designers at Haute Baso presented a collection inspired by a book about Rwanda’s military history called Resilience of a Nation. Showcasing women’s wear with simple yet contemporary silhouettes, the resultant collection featured classic military print jackets and tees mixed with stylish, easy ready-to-wear pieces.

Haute Baso’s mission is to translate the passion for art and design into a vehicle for positive change, so highlighting local artisans while promoting job creation particularly for youth and women is important.

“We know that to empower a woman is to empower her community,” says designer Linda Mukangoga. Her belief in the potential of showcasing Rwanda in a global market through fashion and at the same time empowering artisans in the community is what drives this quiet, determined and passionate designer.

Sonia Mugabo

“If ever there is a market where the fashion world still has potential, it is Africa. I believe it is the right time to change the African narrative and I feel as though it is our creative responsibility to do so,’’ says designer Sonia Mugabo. Following her heart despite being advised to do fashion ‘on the side’, she delivered a SS17 collection featuring bold colors mixed with delightful floral prints and layered ruffles in silhouettes inspired by a refined femininity.

Best known for playing with the perfect mix of vintage and modern design, the brand creates pieces that reflect a documentation of ever-evolving experiences and style.

It represents a collection of memories, of places, people and moments brought to life by #madeinrwanda.

Inzuki Designs

Inzuki Designs is best known for its specialized brand of accessories that are globally appealing, African-inspired and Rwandan-made. Presenting bold, mostly-beaded statement pieces on the runway most suitable to a modern-day contemporary style, every product sees authentic design translated into a vibrant and fashionable accessory.

“I team up with numerous local artisans to transcend traditional Rwandan design and seek to customize it into comtemporay design,” says founder and designer Teta Isibo.

In what was unprecedented for a Kigali show, she believes the fashion week went a long way in showing the potential of ‘Made in Rwanda’.

“We are hoping to grow this movement, get more Rwandan fashion designers on board and forge ahead together to take Rwanda fashion global,” she says.

House of Tayo

Designer Matthew Rugamba took his turn showcasing his menswear collection combining touches of bold African patterns and textures on shirts and jackets.

Key items included a new mix of African-inspired print shirts, pocket squares and scarves, with slim fitting pants.

Feeling both relieved and happy after the show, the designer said he believes togetherness will create a difference in Rwanda’s fashion industry, and that being a part of this platform means there is a growing opportunity to share experiences and widen networks, whilst growing together.

The Collective RW Week of Fashion looks set to keep contributing to an already growing conversation about African fashion and talent in Africa and around the world.

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