12 July 2012

Rwanda: African Fashion Comes to Kigali

Photo: The New Times
Walking the runway at the 2012 Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa.

TO make the extravaganza glamorous and successful, the week will kick off with a workshop a day before the actual event starts on August 18 at the Private Sector Foundation (PSF) Expo Grounds in Gikondo, Kigali.

"With our first fashion show, we are going to introduce African fashion designers, local and international fashion designers who are going to showcase their very beautiful wearable designs," said Peggy Mutabaruka, director of Galax Events and organiser of the Kigali Fashion Week.

"We want Africans to move away from the mentality of buying only from the 'West', especially if one needs something that is really special, the way forward is to buy African clothing," she added.

According to Peggy, the Kigali Fashion Week is going to be different and unique from the previous fashion festivals held in the country.

"We're using a stage that is of international standards and my partners are also in the fashion industry. We're basically going to bring a new level of high fashion into Rwanda," she promised.

The event is expected to attract local and international professional fashion designers, including two from Nigeria and one from South Africa.

Speaking to The New Times, Peggy said that the objective of the fashion show is to promote local fashion to international standards, as well as to boost local fashion designers, and create excitement and fun in Kigali.

"This is really going to be great, with some of our friends from Nigeria and South Africa," she added.

A team from African Fashion International (AFI) will also attend the fashion show to select some potential local fashion designers, who would participate in the African Fashion Week in Johannesburg, South Africa, due to take place in October, this year.

"Rwanda is known for its beautiful women and yet we don't have many who are known internationally. So, this would be one platform to introduce our young girls and develop them as well," Peggy explained.

AFI owns and operates the African continent's most anticipated fashion weeks, such as Capital Town Fashion Week, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Joburg Fashion Week and in Rwanda, called Arise held in New York, U.S.A.

During the African Fashion Week, Rwanda will showcase her uniqueness as well as use the event to promote tourism.

Mutabaruka, whose mother was a tailor, believes that the fashion industry could take its place on the continent as an engine of growth and employment. But she says mindsets will have to change at home as well as abroad.

"Most people like beautiful things and I think its time for us to appreciate our African uniqueness, our African fabrics, our African designs and just celebrate our uniqueness," she said.

"I've always loved fashion. I am a daughter of a tailor. I grew up as my mother made dresses for almost everybody in Nairobi-Kenya," she says.

"Through this event and starting up our modeling agency, we'll educate the public and young girls what really it takes to be a model, and how much one is capable of earning as a model and being proud of it."

While some people appreciate the idea that modern African fashion designers are getting noticed, the industry, like others on the continent, languishes largely in informally and suffers from lack of financing, access to markets and, not being taken seriously enough.

"Fashion design is a profession and there are many people who are making millions of dollars out of it - so it should be respected and no one should be laughed at," warned Mutabaruka.

"The image of Africa is still that of cheap products, badly made that people won't spend money on. Things are changing but there is still this mentality," lamented Sandra Uwera, a local fashionista.

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