4 September 2014

Rwandan Fashion Eyes International Market

The fashion industry in Rwanda fits the definition of young and untapped. However it is slowly evolving into a lucrative and vibrant sector.

Kigali - Located on an expansive plot about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from Kigali's central business district, 'Made in Kigali' is sure to give any major African fashion house a run for its money.

Founded by 26-year-old, Scorpio Ramazani Khoury, Made in Kigali fashion house seeks to turn Rwanda into a hub of high end fashion using local raw materials that meet international standards.

The founder and CEO, Khoury, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but she was raised in Britain. Her company is composed of a welcoming reception area, offices, a showroom and workshop where smartly dressed tailors are busy putting together different pieces of fabric.

She describes it as a business that uses local staff to produce quality high end fashion products and says she chose Rwanda because of its favorable business environment.

"I first started with ten tailors I personally trained. The ones I had with me were very dedicated and were ready to support me even though they did not understand yet where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do," said Khoury. Coming from DRC, Khoury had one challenge to face.

"At first it was very hard because there is a language barrier but I started to learn a few words," she added. Kinyarwanda is the language spoken in Rwanda.

Company worth millions

The fashion house mainly uses local African print material for its designs. The fabric is popular among Rwandans but has for years been worn by elderly ladies who would simply wrap it around them.

Made in Kigali is now exporting some of the products to destinations as far as London thus going beyond the borders of Rwanda and across the shores of Africa.

"We are exporting very small quantities at the moment. We hope that next year we will be doubling our production and exporting more," Khoury said.

Made in Kigali has surprised many people's expectations, Khoury noted, with barely a year old, the company has become part of a growing fashion industry in Rwanda.

The Made in Kigali brand is worth around $2.5 million (nearly 2 million euros) and employs over 100 staff.

Attracting international investors

Apart from being a lucrative business, Made in Kigali is also providing Rwandans with employment. "Working at Made in Kigali is great. Our skills are applied where we can be more productive," said Musaniwabo Louise, an employee at the firm.

Bujingo Jean also works at Made in Kigali. He described his employer as a focused investor seeking to expand fashion and export quality garment. This in turn could attract international investors looking for locally produced goods.

"You find that imported garments look like what we do and you find investors looking for our locally made products from Africa. This makes us as tailors very proud," Jean said.

Made in Kigali is presently in talks with Rwanda's ministry of trade and industry to train between 3,000 to 5,000 tailors. The ai, Khoury says is to meet the growing demands of the fashion industry in Rwanda and abroad.

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