Kevine Kagirimpundu and Ysolde Shimwe are new faces in Rwanda’s growing fashion industry.
Ever since they jointly established a fashion house while still students, they’ve shown incredible energy and drive to fulfill their ambition of becoming one of the leading fashion houses in the region.
Uzuri K&Y was established in 2012, while the duo was still third year students at University of Rwanda.
Beautiful Uzuri K&Y summer collection.
“We set out to showcase the beauty of Rwanda fashion and felt that the best we could do was to start a fashion house. Uzuri K&Y was born out of our burning ambition to also continue using our talents after school,” says Shimwe
Shimwe’s early childhood life can be said to be in direct contrast to her friend. She was never passionate about fabrics when she was young.
But for Kagirimpundu, the bug of fashion bit her in earnest when she was in her primary school. “I just loved sewing dresses and I would collect any discarded clothing material and make something out of it,” she recounts with a tinge of pride in her voice.
Fate would connect them at the University of Rwanda where they joined in 2012, to study Creative Arts.
“For two weeks after we joined college, we didn’t know each other. This was a period where life takes you to another world where you’re lost and have to create new friends,” Shimwe says.
Their friendship developed in this chaos of starting a new life in a new big community.
“We were given a class assignment to do with sketching. When I looked at Kevin’s sketches, I found out that they were more organized than mine. I really wanted her to help me with my sketches and that she did,” recalls Shimwe.
Kagirimundu chips in : “Fashion had always been running in my blood and this was a walk in the park to me. I had known before how to do and organise my sketches.”
After this first encounter, the two say their friendship began to grow gradually, though at first they were just casual friends who helped each other in terms of class assignments.
They focus on fashionable shoes and bags made out of prints and leather. (Photos courtesy of Uzuri K&Y)
But the whole complexion of their friendship changed when both were involved in a photography magazine project.
“We did the shootings together and what came out of it was just amazing. It’s at this point that we knew that we had something in common,” Shimwe points out.
This something in common is what later pushed them to register their fashion house while they were still in their third year in college. That was the birth of Uzuri K&Y that was registered in 2013.
We started Uzuri K&Y with nothing in terms of money but with burning desire to do what we wanted to do. We used our savings in college, they say.
Their big break in the fashion industry came with the holding of Kigali Fashion Week, the biggest annual fashion show in the country.
The two say the event, held in August 2013, proved to be the best one so far and they were pleased when Sonia Rolland, Former Miss France and a renowned fashion designer decided to model for them. People liked their style and they started receiving orders from all quarters.
After this, they booked a showroom at Ikunza Designs where they stayed for three months before relocating to their own store in Gikondo.
Using their savings they bought some machines and equipment to set up a workshop, where they could work under one umbrella, on their own, without being reliant on other people.
They employ 12 workers in the workshop, doing different activities like cutting materials to make shoes, sewing and cutting clothes.
“We want to establish our own clothing and shoe production line and this is just the beginning of greater things to come. Uzuri K&Y has now come of age and there’s no looking back,” says Kagirimpundu.
Uzuri K&Y has also managed to take part in various regional and international shows where they have proudly represented the country. The company is currently focusing on fashionable shoes and bags for women.