Even though Rwanda does not have the benefits that comes from having its own fashion school, the champions of the country’s second fashion week displays a fledgling industry that has worldwide ambitions. When it comes the fashion industry in Africa it is usually the catwalks of Johannesburg and Lagos which makes the headlines as it continues to grow in stature across the globe. The capital of Rwanda, however, has now placed its bid for glory following the launch of the now annual Kigali Fashion Week for the second time.
Sonia Mugabo, who lost her aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends in the mass genocide almost two decades ago, was just one of ten local designers who had their work showcased last Friday night, helped greatly by those who organise New York Fashion Week. Even though there is no fashion school for her to attend in Rwanda Sonia says that her tragic family history has made her more determined than ever to reach her goal of becoming a fully fledged fashion designer.
The 23 year old, who studied in the US and had her internship at Teen Vogue, said that when she was at college studying graphic design her parents asked her what she was doing as fashion is a luxury in Rwanda and not everybody can afford fashionable clothes. She added that the country also has a very conservative culture so people often view fashion as show but despite all this she always knew in what direction her life was heading.
Sonia also believes that the people of Rwanda don’t understand the concept of art and what it can do for a country. Sonia and her 30 year old friend Candy Basomingera launched their own range for women, Afrikana Exquisiteness, back in August.
LDJ Productions, the company behind New York Fashion Week, believe that Rwanda has great potential to have a strong fashion industry, and the country was recently ranked in third place in the list of easiest countries to do business in in the sub-Sahara region of Africa.