THE year 2017 saw the 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 swimsuits.
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 trendsetter Laduma Maxhosa also displayed his sensational and colorful Xhosa-inspired knitwear. This 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 colorful 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 for 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 the cultural exchange between Ghana and Rwanda through fashion and textile.
Celestin Best Ntawirema is the CEO of Rwanda Culture Fashion Show and founder of film house IRIS-Pro 1000 Hills Ltd. His goal is to support artistry and culture through dance, music, fashion and film. He spoke to Society Magazine’s Stephen Kalimba about his sense of style.
How would you describe your style?
I am fun and fashionable; not too many colours. I want my outfits to match. With a job like mine, you have to look good. I like suits too; my friends ask me questions when they do not find me wearing one.
Do you have a designer?
I work with many designers, so I try out some of the stuff they do. I also have tailors who make suits and they are very good, like Joseline Umutoni near Sky Hotel Remera.
What’s your take on white shoes? Some people wear them with suits?
They are not for everybody or every day, if you’re going to the stage or on screen, maybe.But elsewhere? Not really. Even our roads are too dusty for them.
Second hand vs. new clothes?
I don’t go for second hand clothes. I used to but now, for the sake of my credibility I don’t.
What are your kind of accessories?
I like watches, especially sports and metal watches like Caico and Shades. Watches are good for time saving, you might have a phone but when you’re seated on a moto or in a crowded place, all you need is to look at your watch.
Who influenced your venture into fashion?
My dad. He liked to wear Kitenge and African jewellery like that of the Maasai.
What should people avoid in fashion?
There are clothes that come from China that look nice when you first see them but fade in no time.
Any fashion advice?
When you’re smart you can relax and have a peace of mind, especially around people. Keep your clothes in good condition;do not over wash or iron them. Also, do not leave them with someone else to take care of, they might mess them up instead.
The Cultural Tourism Week at Red Rocks in Musanze was a buffet of all things Rwandan-from Rwandan cultural fashion designs, traditional food and drink, poetry and spoken word performances, music and dance, basket weaving, traditional story-telling and grain milling, to mention but a few. In its 6th year running, the Cultural Tourism Week run from August 26th to September 1. It was organised by Red Rocks in partnership with the Rwanda Cultural Fashion Show, which is now in its 5th year running.
The Cultural Tourism Week run from August 26 to September 1, with the Rwanda Cultural Fashion Show falling on August 31. The activities were also peppered with discussions and reflections on conservation by various stakeholders and members of the surrounding local community.
What made the event stand out was the large number of locals from outlying villages who trooped to Red Rocks to partake of the various fun activities, while others simply came because of the prospect of making a quick buck out of souvenir sales to tourists. The women from the local crafts cooperative that operates out of Red Rocks added colour to the week-long activities, draped in colourful Kitengi fabrics and knitting away at their baskets and other tourist souvenirs.
At the Cultural Fashion Show on September 31st, local fashion designers and models showcased a variety of retro designs that date back to traditional Rwandan society; from Inyonga, Inkanda, Inshabure, and Inkindi traditional wear, among others. Through well-executed skits, the models were also able to depict the mode of clothing that was used by former Rwandan kings, royals, royal guards and their military regalia. Guests were able to get a feel of what a typical King’s palace looked like.
According to Celestin Ntawirema, the CEO of Rwanda Cultural Fashion Show, the platform seeks to identify and nurture modeling talent from different parts of the country. To this end, established fashion designers and models were used to headline the Cultural Fashion Show, while the emerging talent picked from the community learns from the seniors. The fashion show also featured many models that are outside of the conventional modeling age bracket, further adding to its uniqueness compared to previous editions.
“We are working in a countryside setting which helps us easily find a variety of traditional clothing in the area as well as other tools that were being used in the traditional era,” explained Greg Bakunzi, CEO of Red Rocks Rwanda. On September 1, a day after the Cultural Fashion Show, Bakunzi was among the 19 people honoured to name a baby gorilla at the gorilla naming ceremony, Kwita Izina, in Kinigi, Musanze. This was in recognition of his work at Red Rocks as a community focused tourism business.
Inzuki is a dynamic young Rwandan brand specializing in Jewellery, Accessories and Interior decor hand-made primarily from Local materials. All products are Rwandan Made, African Inspired, and Globally Loved. Our products are a fusion of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary style. Our design philosophy seeks to transcend traditional Rwandan design and customize it to suit modern needs. Inzuki works with numerous local artisans that use their skills to translate our authentic designs into vibrant quality pieces. Inzuki is part of a wider Rwandan cultural Renaissance. We are greatly inspired by the growing innovation scene in the country and by the increasing number of young entrepreneurs and trendsetters that are propelling Rwanda to the next level.
INCO is the first born in Rwanda Fashion Brand, combining traditional Rwandese styles with a modern touch. INCO products range from unisex clothing to cutting-edge accessories for men and women urging to experience with African traditions combined with modern, urban lines.
It was a blend of modernity and culture at the Rwanda Cultural Fashion Show held over the weekend. Local fashion designers showcased a variety of unique designs at the glamorous fashion show on Saturday evening at Sports View Hotel in Remera.
Celestin is working on a docu-drama project titled, Hope for the Future. The story is based on his life as a survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and his life as a street kid after the conflict. The film needs your support! Consider contributing - contact us to find out more.
The term fashion model means a woman or man who wears clothes to display fashions of a certain designer. Fashion models mostly belong to modeling agencies (a modeling agency is a company that represents a group of models which they call their model board).
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RCFS is a forum for local and international fashion designers, to showcase their design. This event is unique by featuring designs from a variety of cultures and from local and international designers. It is organized and managed by IRIS PRO-FILMS 1000 HILLS which is a film and Photography Company that also specializes in event management and representation of actors and models.