Kigali city in recent years has been blessed with numerous fashion creatives who are setting the fashion scene ablaze. Designers like Matthew Rugamba of House of Tayo have helped move Kigali fashion from the former perception of low quality and “unattractive” clothing items to high quality, high demand clothes and accessories.
This can be seen in the Ijezi design put out by House of Tayo mid last year. The Ijezi expresses the golden heritage of Rwanda in a simplistic yet sophisticated manner. The Ijezi brought much excitement not only to Rwandans but foreigners as well and skyrocketed House of Tayo’s publicity and sales.
Though this is just one company that is thriving in the Kigali fashion sector, many more companies have been introduced and are now making a bubbling and competitive industry ultimately to the benefit of the Rwandan economy.
According to a recent article by Fibre2fashion in the past two years, Rwanda has seen its textile garment and fashion sector grow by 83% between 2018 and 2020. Further statistics provided by the ministry of trade in Rwanda showed in 2018 Rwanda exported $5.9 million worth of textile, a number that went up to $34.6 million by 2020. These numbers not only show the revenue the textile and fashion industry in Rwanda is bringing but show its ability to keep expanding.
Seeing the current progress made by Kigali in its fashion business, the question on everyone’s mind has to be:
How Did They Do It?
One major step was the initiative of the government to create the made in Rwanda policy. A policy which according to the International Growth Centre is aimed at “ addressing the trade deficit by boosting production of and stimulating sustainable demand for competitive Rwandan value”.
So far it is doing its job. A lot of local fashion start-ups and businesses have been funded by the “Made in Rwanda” policy furthermore giving room for local business owners to thrive in the fashion sector.
In celebration of young creatives in Africa, the Visit Rwanda campaign in collaboration with Arsenal and the Collective RW made a youtube video with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin, and Reiss Nelson. Where the three footballers had to design their outfits by using accessories from fashion houses in Rwanda; Haute Baso, House of Tayo, Inzuki Designs, K’tsobe, Moshions, Rwanda Clothing, Uzi Collections and more.
Incentives, videos, marketing, and policies like these which support local businesses are key to the steady growth of the fashion industry.
Although the fashion industry is coming up now, previously there was a huge drop in the number of sales recorded, (New Times Rwanda) and in the demand for clothes and accessories due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This was mainly because of the lockdown that occurred in the early stages of the pandemic. There was a long list of canceled fashion events that eventually led to the loss of money for most local fashion designers.
In an interview with the New Times Rwanda Celestin Ntariwema, founder of Rwanda cultural show, mentioned that “the outbreak made it hard to do anything” yet alone achieve the Rwanda cultural show’s goal of promoting modeling and fashion designers. (New Times Rwanda).
At this stage, it was looking like Rwanda needed an economic miracle to bounce back from these challenges but with adversity came innovation. Fashion designers especially in Kigali found a way to develop their brands while profiting from the pandemic.
This came majorly from the production of face masks with African prints and designs. The fashion company Moshions , after proper training on the production of masks by the Rwanda FDA released a line of face masks going for RWF10,000. This new line of facemasks brought a lot of customers and attracted business to Moshions. However, besides moshions, 20 other fashion businesses were approved for the production of facemasks. (New Times Rwanda).
Although this wasn’t enough, numerous businesses went online and created websites in order to generate online sales through social media. This was a major step to the recovery of numerous businesses in Rwanda.
Sustainability was also a huge problem within the fashion industry that was reduced with the made in Rwanda policy but another factor that has helped is the localization of most fashion designers.
Successful fashion companies in Rwanda help collaborate with upcoming businesses, this can be seen in organizations like the Collective RW. The support of upcoming fashion businesses by established companies helps sustainability and maintenance of the fashion of the economy.
The fashion scene in Rwanda, although thriving, is yet to reach its full potential. But with current support from fashion designers, local businesses and the government, Rwanda is on its way to becoming a top fashion destination.