The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Debut Kigali Fashion Week Impresses

There was colour and pomp as the curtains came down on the inaugural Kigali Fashion week on Friday, as different designers from across the continent and beyond displayed their collections before an excited crowd.

The fashion event, which is expected to be an annual event, did not disappoint as models hit the runway to showcase the creations of over a dozen designers, under the well-lit Chinese Bamboo Restaurant, accompanied by well selected music.

It was a night that affirmed the fact the fashion industry in Rwanda is slowly but surely growing and that there is light at the end of the tunnel for our talented fashion designers.

It was a moment of shine for designers Patrick Muhire, Francis Iraguha, Ituze Ndutiye Colombe, Silas Anditi, Suhaa Schmitz, Naleli Rugege, Vita Vass, Lucy Rao, Gloria Wavamunno, Ruqaiyah Johnson, Hanne Zachariasse-Asfalt and Cynthia Munwangari, whose collections were featured.

It was full house as fashion lovers descended on the rooftop restaurant to catch a glimpse of what was on the menu.

Kigali Fashion Week, which was held under the theme 'Celebrating Rwandan Cultural Heritage and Artistic Expression', saw local Rwandan designers showcase their colourful and vibrant creations, proving that given a chance, they could scale the heights.

"I was impressed by the clothes. It is hard to believe that they are actually made here," said Nadege Uwamahoro, one of the fashion lovers who attended the finale.

Francis Iraguha of Francis Zahabu Couture, Patrick Muhire, Ituze of Inco Icyusa, and Naleli Rugege, were among the local designers who shone among their regional and international peers, unleashing collections that left the audience impressed and satisfied.

"Whatever I do, I try to add value and quality---the best that I can, which makes my work stand out. I do my best to churn out something similar to gold---beautiful, well-refined and genuine. Our target is to go international," said Francis Iraguha.

His collections themed, 'Africa/Rwanda fused with modern couture', were among the most outstanding of the lot.

Colombe Ituze and Naleli Rugege also proved that young women can pursue their dreams and if that dream is fashion, things could just turn out to be good. The young designers upstaged their grown and experienced counterparts, unveiling their potential during the fashion week.

It was a night of beauty and fashion as the models strutted their stuff in what actually proved that the fashion and modelling industry in Rwanda are on the move.

"It is been great to be part of the Kigali Fashion Week. My collections today were inspired by Africa and African people. I used bright, colourful fabrics from Africa," said Lucy Rao, a seasoned Kenyan fashion designer.

The Nairobi-based designer told The New Times that she was impressed by the prospects of the fashion industry in Rwanda, which she said, like other sectors, is on the rise.

Iraguha shares the same belief with Lucy Rao, pointing out that Rwandans have started appreciating fashion; adding, however ,that it is the duty of fashion designers to make people appreciate it more, if they produce something good.

The chief guest, the Minister of Culture and Sports Protais Mitali, in a statement read out for him, commended the organisers for a job well done and the efforts to develop fashion industry in Rwanda.

According to John Bunyeshuri, CEO, Kigali Fashion Week, the event will be taking place every year and they intend to transform it into an international fashion event with global appeal.

He pointed out that the fashion week, a brainchild of House of Fashion Rwanda, will yield to a Fashion and Arts School, which will offer short and full time courses in fashion in a bid to fire up the fashion industry in the country.

"We believe in the promotion of young Rwandan talent and Rwandan fashion which is already on the rise. We believe tonight marks the beginning of a long journey that will make Kigali Fashion Week an exciting event on the calendar," said Bunyeshuri.

The participating designers came from USA, Kenya, Burundi, Demark, France, South Africa, among others.

Former Miss France Sonia Rolland was among the high profile guests who attended the closing of the three day Kigali Fashion Week as well as diplomatic corps.

Local musician Kitoko Bibarwa entertained the audience at the fashion show.

The New Times, Workforce Development Authority, Bamboo Restaurant and the Ministry of Sports and Culture were among the sponsors.

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