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Rwanda’s fashion scene is thriving. Though young and still relatively small compared to that of Kenya or West Africa, the country’s fashion industry has experienced immense growth in the past several years with new talents emerging daily. Unique designers are quickly becoming well known and beloved across East Africa, placing Rwanda solidly on the continent’s fashion map. Read on for the bold fashion designers in Rwanda you should know.
House of Tayo, with a signature style described as ‘Afrodandy,’ has steadily gained prominence across Rwanda. Established in 2011 by Matthew Rugamba, House of Tayo is known for their colorful bowties, shirts, and custom suits. Rugamba, as one of Rwanda’s early fashion designers and co-founder of CollectiveRw, has been dedicated to building up the fashion community, changing Rwanda’s fashion narrative, and collaborating with likeminded brands. Rugamba creates iconic designs inspired by the Motown era, traditional British tailoring, and his own African heritage. In using design as a tool to tell stories about his home country of Rwanda, he paints a richly diverse, fantastical, fast-paced, and sophisticated picture of Rwanda today.
Sonia Mugabo (SM) began in 2013 as the brainchild of Sonia Mugabo herself. SM is one of the premier fashion houses in Rwanda, and Mugabo, as the chief designer and entrepreneur, creates beautiful clothing for the stylish and modern individual. Her timeless designs have become known as some of Rwanda’s finest, and her brand is undoubtedly a reflection of herself; elegant, feminine, and whimsical. By breaking barriers and creating an accessible and genuine brand story, Mugabo is on her way to becoming one of the region’s most beloved designers. She has been featured in several major publications, and recently showed her designs in the CollectiveRW fashion week. SM also plans to eventually expand to other global fashion markets, and hopefully present seasonal collections on the runways of major fashion shows around the world. Named one of the 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa by Forbes and one of Glam Africa’s 5 African designers to watch, Mugabo is going places.
Started by Bernadette Umunyana, DOKMAI is Rwanda’s premier leather fashion accessories company. DOKMAI thoughtfully designs and handcrafts purses, bags, wallets, and more in Rwanda. By pairing local leather with local kitenge fabric, these custom and handmade products have become immensely popular throughout the country. Umunyana, before moving back to Rwanda, got her start in fashion in Laos and Burkina Faso. There, she focused on silk production and design. By bringing her talents back to Rwanda and working with leather, she has filled an important niche. In the future, DOKMAI is looking at expanding its offerings to include shoes, and focus on targeting clients throughout East Africa.
Bold and colorful accessories, jewelry, and interior decor are the cornerstones of Inzuki’s bourgeoning fashion label. Founded by Teta Isibo in 2010, Inzuki’s unique designs simultaneously merge traditional and contemporary Rwandan styles, and have quickly become known as some of Rwanda’s best work. All pieces are made in the country with local materials, and her collaboration with other designers and sectors in the country is exciting to witness. Recently, Isibo designed the interior decor of the new and luxurious Bisate Lodge, one of Rwanda’s premier accommodation offerings. Further, with countless features in prominent online publications and an online store opening soon, Inzuki is becoming even more well known outside of Rwanda as an African lifestyle brand.
Founded by Linda Mukangoga, Haute Baso produces some of Rwanda’s most creative, colorful, and innovative clothing and accessories. As the creative director, Mukangoga started Hatue Baso upon realizing there were few options for Rwanda-made gifts and apparel. Passionate about collaborating with fellow designers and individuals in the creative sector, Haute Baso is a ready-to-wear lifestyle brand, designing contemporary pieces with subtle Rwandan accents. Their quality and craftsmanship is not limited to just their designs, as they also invest in young women throughout Rwanda by way of vocational training, entrepreneurial mentorship, and employment. Haute Baso’s minimal yet fashion-forward style is becoming known around the world, and Mukangoga’s lines have appeared recently at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Johannesburg. Additionally, Haute Baso has also been featured in Vogue, Forbes, Vanity Fair, CNBC Africa, CNN, and many other publications. Keep an eye on their website for an e-commerce shop to come that will service North America and Europe.
Newcomers Nathalie Remera and Rwema Umutoni founded Uzi Collections in 2015, and are dedicated to uniting their love of fashion with their focus on youth empowerment, Rwandan entrepreneurship, and creativity. Using colorful and handmade batik fabric, their designs are centered around a comfortable vintage feel. The brand works to lift up and impact young people that did not originally have opportunities in Rwanda’s creative sector. Noting that the fashion industry in Rwanda has grown tremendously in the last five years, Uzi plans to keep that momentum going with further innovation and cross-sector collaboration.
Founded by model-turned-designer Moses Turahirwa in 2011, Moshions has gained prominence as a bespoke tailoring brand. His unique label is inspired by contrasting elements such as modernity and ancestry, anarchy and severity, and spectacle and depth. His clothing, often minimalistic and with small flourishes of traditional Rwandan influence, is known to be of excellent quality, creative, and easy to wear. He recently showed his designs at the CollectiveRw fashion show in Kigali, as well as across the region and Nigeria. Moshions is simple, elegant, and only getting better with time.