Kevine Kagirimpundu(L) and Ysolde Shimwe take to the stage during one of the fashion shows in Kigali. (Courtesy)
Uzuri K&Y of Kevine Kagirimpundu and Ysolde Shimwe have this year taken the fashion industry by storm. They participated in almost all national fashion events and took part in some international fashion shows as well. Kagirimpundu talked to Joseph Oindo about how the local fashion industry fared in 2014.
You attended several fashion shows this year. What was your most memorable one ?
The fashion show that I did in Oklahoma City (in the US) was the one that put me in the limelight. The positive feedback and encouragement from the crowd was just amazing.
Was the Rwanda Cultural Fashion Week a success or a failure ?
It was a huge success ; so many people showed up and got to see what they expected.
What about the Kigali Fashion Week ?
Kigali Fashion week was a success as well ; UZURI K&Y did not attend due to other important responsibilities. However, Kigali Fashion Week is a show that has a huge impact on the fashion industry of Rwanda
A number of fashion houses opened this year. Does it show that Rwanda’s fashion industry is growing ?
Absolutely… And that’s positive because it shows that the market is growing as well.
What was your most favourite event that you attended ?
Oh, this year the African Development Bank Annual Meetings was very exciting to me because I got to learn a lot about business. Being a designer is cool but if you don’t know business you might end up closing shop in a short time.
You went to Uganda for a fashion event. Do you think that the Rwanda fashion industry can compete favourably in the region ?
Yes. Rwanda has a lot to offer to the region, there are amazing designers here. But they might still need a little bit of a wakeup call. Our whole fashion industry still has a lot to learn.
You also went to Oklahoma for a fashion event. Does this mean that Rwanda fashion industry is attracting international recognition ?
Absolutely…. buyers/retailers are coming to Rwanda and we already have met one who is willing to retail our comfortable-waterproof-print sandals. So it’s very positive that if designers can keep up the pace, they can play a big role in the Rwandan economy.
What were the main highlights of the fashion industry this year ?
Let’s say that the biggest ones for Africa were the Mercedes-Benz Fashion week 2014 and Africa Fashion Week. Rwanda Cultural Fashion Week, Kigali Fashion Week, Kampala Fashion Week, and Bujumbura Fashion week also marked the region’s fashion events.
All these events are creating awareness for the African fashion industry. That gives courage to designers that we have potential and eventually the biggest names in the business will be motivated to work with us. Also, the market is being attracted by what African designers are offering. It’s exciting ; I can see a bright future for us.
On the other hand, this upcoming year we would love to hear stories of African designers featuring with international brand and selling ‘Made in Africa products’.
Uzuri K&Y is becoming a force to reckon with in fashion industry. What’s your secret ?
UZURI K&Y was created out of passion and love for fashion. Ysolde & Kevine are focused on creating a brand with a purpose of designing and manufacturing ‘Made in Rwanda’ products. We are not focusing on making money quickly but on building a company until so many people, including us, can depend on it.
We are young, motivated and love what we do, that’s why we have been able to remain in the fashion industry for a year and a half now.
Our main focus is now on designing and manufacturing ‘Made in Rwanda’ shoes and bags.
These products are world class, long lasting, and water proof, and we are using the African prints. Also, that kept us in the business.
What advice can you give to upcoming fashionistas ?
The industry looks fun but it’s not really fun. If you want to make it you may need to know that the fashion industry requires a hard worker, a quick learner, and patient and ambitious person. Creativity may be a plus to those four.
Always have a vision and if you happen to have a chance in the fashion industry anywhere, use that chance to the fullest. It only happens once and it may get you where you want to be.