Wednesday 22nd of March 2023

Nairobi, Kenya

Elijah Mcquinn The boldest fashion brand in Uganda

Hello I am Harriet and I will be your personal designer today. I love to help you to design and buy African print clothing that perfectly suits your personality and style.

International clothing brands are hard to get by in in the Ugandan capital of Uganda. That does not mean that the urban hipsters are left behind. A surge of young ground breaking designers has taken over the market of Ugandan fashion landscape and now determines what is trendy.
We talk to Harriet Alur who is the creative director of Elijah Mcquinn, a sustainable fashion brand located in Kisementi, next to Brood.

Harriet, Where does the name and brand Elijah Mcquinn originate from?

Elijah Mcquinn is my son`s name. His coming to the world inspired me to start a clothing line that would support both of us.

Since those difficult early days as a single mom I am now proud to announce the opening of our first shop in Kisementi. It offers both posh dresses, skirts & tops with kitenge features as well as cool streetwear & shorts with an African touch for men.

Where do you get your inspiration?
Our inspiration comes from frequent visits to the country`s largest market `Owino` (meaning born with a cord around the neck). While getting lost in the chaos and commotion of the people both buying and selling used clothing and cooling down later in the day in the most fancy upmarket boutiques we are able to obtain unique insights which allow us to redesign in all creativity.

Your brand Elijah Mcquinn claims to be sustainable. Can you explain?
Every day tons of second hand clothing are dumped onto the African continent. For every piece of item dumped, a local tailor has one day less income. As Elijah Mcquinn we decided to make a statement against this unsustainable practice by recycling the attributes of this original western clothing.

How would you describe your style?
We want our clients to feel in a fairytale destination where the sun always shines. We mix, blend and merge styles from across the 4 wind directions and regions in Uganda . This allows us to impress both upmarket Ugandan clients as well as foreign visitors.

Our jumpsuits draw all attention to you during that fancy cocktail party in Kololo. Our chiffon maxi dresses will convert an early spring day into a full summer in Paris. Our silk kimonos will reveal an oriental touch in . Our bomber jackets make your street style pop in the streets of New York

Recently you added a travel bag line.
Our clients requested us to reflect on their regular travel needs as they indicated the absence of fashionable bags to carry. Therefore we developed crafted work of the best leather available in combination with animal skins. Our safari travel bags make you stand out in even the most upmarket hotel lobby.

Would you say that beauty can be purchased or it is intrinsic to a person?
We believe that every lady has what it takes to be beautiful. It is all about developing your own style and highlighting your strongest features. We are glad to explore with our clients how our designs an attributes can do that perfectly. To help ladies show their beauty even further we recently offer organic shea butter directly from Northern Uganda to revitalize and smoothen our delicate skins.

What message do you have to share with the audience?
Be proud of your Ugandans origins without being feeling shy to recombining your style with other foreign themes. In Uganda people tend to think that foreign products are automatically of superior quality.

Unfortunately that is how we have taken advantage of and mediocre imports enter the country under the flag of international quality. With my brand I want to prove that `Made in Uganda` can reach international standards and has what it takes to make us all proud.

We select buttons, laces, linings and cutouts which are still in perfect condition and we reuse them into newly designed items. This reduces local clothing market distortion and reduces the environmental impact by unnecessary production. We try to send these up-cycled articles back to Europe for retail to the same people who threw them. I wish they knew.

Where can we find you?
We are located on plot 4 sturrock road, Kisementi, Kampala. Right next to Cutting Station Kampala. S
Since last summer we also occasionally during popups in Antwerp in Belgium.

Online sales are done at www.elijah-mcquinn.com
More designs are available on our Instagram page @elijahmcquinn

Content courtesy of Elijah Mcquinn & Nairobi fashion hub

Fashion Couture Affair 5th Edition in Dar es Salaam

Nairobi fashion hub brings you the latest trends from the front rows of the just concluded fashion couture affair 5th edition.

A lot has been said about this runway event which started right here in Kenya. Over the years we have seen it grow from a simple catwalk event to a high end international fashion runway event.

Fashion Couture Affair Changing The Fashion Industry In Africa

Let us take you through how their 5th edition went down in Dar es Salaam Tanzania. This is the first Kenyan runway event to be hosted outside the county.

The stage was set for the show and the location was perfect and atmosphere was just right for the occasion.

Something to note about this show was they had a lot of industrial players attending the event. Which is good if you are into fashion business.

Sorry I forgot to mention the theme for this edition was valentines that explains the timing of the event and the set you see below.

The event was able to bring together fashion designer from across the globe. What am sure everyone will agree with me is that from all the edition fashion couture affair has had, this one has produced one of the most creative and mind blowing designs.

From the red carper to the main runway, the setup was done very exquisite kudos to the team.

Event host was Diana Edward Loi Miss Tanzania with an amazing voice, very composed and technical knowhow of the job.

Designers who showcased their design collection at this year’s event ” Fashion Couture Affair 5th Edition” were

  • Kidato designs
  • Levra with culture
  • Angel Hudson
  • Baghai classic fashion
  • Mahamus Designs
  • Africa By Linet
  • Rama D

What we can learn from this event is that, they are trying to connect different countries through the work of fashion and art. Fashion Couture has had a significant growth and their track record speaks for themselves as they have always managed to deliver a quality experience for the audience, designers and all other participants.

This places the event among the top events in the East and central African block. Spreading out their wings to Tanzania seems like a bold move and one that was met positively considering the event has hosted quite a number of foreign designers in previous editions.

We hope to more of these kind of high end runway events that will create a good impart to the region and our day to day living.

Content Courtesy of Fashion Couture Affair & Nairobi Fashion Hub 

House Of Tayo

House of Tayo is a fashion design firm from Rwanda founder by Matthew Rugamba is the Founder and Creative Director, Matthew Rugamba

House Of Tayo Philosophy

“At House of Tayo, we have a passion for storytelling, and our brand through both lifestyle and fashion provides an opportunity for us to use design, media, clothing, and accessories to tell African stories. At House of Tayo, we are innovators propelled by tradition, historians that publish on cloth, and designers who combine African heritage with more contemporary designs and concepts. ”

About House Of Tayo
House of Tayo was created out of the desire to find a unique way through which to showcase African sophistication, style, and flavor through contemporary, locally-made clothing and accessories. With style influences ranging from the Motown era to traditional British tailoring, House of Tayo seeks to combine elegance and class with a strong sense of African heritage and iconography.

We are a distinctly Rwandan-born brand that works with local artisans and tailors and in doing so we support the local community by providing stable income and employment opportunities.
With its unconventional combination of colors and patterns, the brand is bold and futuristic; edgy, yet sophisticated; and reflective of the current proliferation of African arts, culture, and style on the world stage. The brand is truly authentic and homegrown, utilizing African textiles and fabrics, and produced by Rwandan tailors and artisans.

House Of Tayo History Africa Fashion Week London is one of the biggest, most bustling fashion events across Europe. It’s attended by at least 20,000 people and filled with back-to-back runway shows, colorful exhibitor stalls, and lavish food from hip restaurants. Over two days, 50 of the world’s best emerging and established designers showcase their African-inspired designs. Last summer, 23-year-old Matthew Rugamba was one of them. At the finale of the fashion show for his label, House of Tayo, Rugamba walked down the runway to applause and cheers. It was a surreal moment. How had he gotten here? he wondered.

He was going into his senior year at Lewis & Clark, where he was majoring in international affairs. Yet here he was, in London, during the Olympics, displaying colorful bow ties and snoods (circular scarves) he’d made from traditional African fabrics. He gazed at the approving crowd.

More than 1,000 attendees including London fashionistas, style bloggers, and Financial Times, and BBC reporters watched the young entrepreneur expectantly. He’d prepped for this moment by studying YouTube videos of famous designers closing their fashion shows. Now, at his own, he stood overwhelmed, forgetting what to do. “I think I bowed,” he says.

It was a rare moment of indecision for Rugamba, whose resolve, style, and drive have already captured the attention of the fashion world. Born in west London, Rugamba moved to Uganda, his father’s homeland, before he was six years old.

After attending primary school in Uganda for several years, Rugamba and his family relocated to his mother’s homeland of Rwanda. From there, he moved on to boarding school in Kenya, where he was active in sports and music. He later enrolled in Swaziland’s prestigious Waterford United World College as a Davis United World College Scholar.
While researching U.S. colleges and universities, Rugamba happened on Lewis & Clark and was particularly impressed with its small class sizes. “I didn’t want to go somewhere and be a statistic,” he says. “It was important to me to interact in the classroom.” His high school friends in Africa told him to get used to being in a classroom where his race would put him in the minority. Rugamba was undeterred. He looked forward to interacting with his Lewis & Clark peers and creating opportunities for mutual growth.

For Rugamba, being away from home was nothing new; he was already a world traveler. But his classes at Lewis & Clark challenged his thinking in terms of both what he learned and how he learned it. Courses like Introduction to International Affairs, taught by Professor Bob Mandel, taught him not to take information at face value. He quickly learned that it was okay and, in fact, encouraged to ask questions and challenge professors.

While the small classes allowed him to put up his hand, his accent made people look up from their laptops. If the subject of Africa arose, all heads turned toward him. Prior to Lewis & Clark, he’d always been surrounded by people from his country. In Oregon, he picked up a new role: Africa ambassador. “People didn’t know much about the country I consider home, Rwanda especially in terms of its everyday life,” he says. At one point, he considered claiming he was from Uganda instead of Rwanda due to its troubled history of genocide, but he reconsidered. “I had to stand up for where I’m from.

I wanted to show people the amazing things coming out of Africa.” This led Rugamba, always a dapper presence on campus, to a decision. He’d combine his eye for fashion with his desire to share the stories of Africa. Wax print fabrics originated in Indonesia. The Dutch brought them to Africa’s Gold Coast, and the bold geometric prints spread throughout the continent.

In Africa, Rugamba explains, prints tell a story beyond looking beautiful. Their colors contain meanings that vary by country. In Ghana, yellow represents gold, but in Uganda it symbolizes sunshine. Green might stand for culture or prosperity. “If there’s a new king or president, you will see it expressed in the fabric,” he says. Matthew is always engaged, innovative, and very ‘there’ in whatever he is doing. He’s got this laser focus that’s going to make him very successful.

George Austinadjunct instructor in Rhetoric and Media Studies In the summer of 2011, after his sophomore year, his friend Hope Seery CAS ’13 visited Rugamba in Rwanda. One afternoon, they flagged down motorcycle taxis and headed to a bustling marketplace in Kigali. “Matthew asked if we could stop by a tailor’s, so off we went,” remembers Seery.

“As we waded through piles of African wax prints, neatly stacked from floor to ceiling, Matthew explained his idea for a fashion line. Until that point, I thought we were there to get his suit hemmed!” Rugamba chose a few prints and took them to a local seamstress “a woman in an alleyway with a single sewing machine,” says Seely.

“Matthew and the seamstress discussed design plans, and she told us to come back in three days. When we returned, she revealed House of Tayo’s first set of snoods and bowties.

They were beautiful!” While bow ties may seem old-fashioned, Rugamba begs to differ.

During his junior year, he interned at the National Endowment for Democracy as part of Lewis & Clark’s Off-Campus Study Program in Washington, D.C. While there, he eschewed the conventional intern dress code of white shirts and blue ties and instead wore his colorful bow ties. “I’m drawn to bow ties,” he says.

“They say ‘prestige.’ You think of professors, special occasions. There’s an element of respect.” Rugamba refers to his style as “Afro-Dandyism,” a nod to an elegant style he developed during his years in boarding school. “Wearing uniforms tests your individuality you’re supposed to look the same, but you can still develop ways to express your style subtly,” he says. “Some students would knot their ties thinner or thicker. Others would change their shoelaces.

Those details make you pay attention.” Tradition inspires Rugamba. “I like things that look good, but my ability to embrace fashion comes out of linking it to art, history, and culture.

Take British tailoring. People go to the same Savile Row tailor for 50 years. When fashion becomes linked to tradition and history, it becomes a lot more than just looking good,” Rugamba says. “I look at old pictures of my grandfather and father and think, ‘If I wore those clothes today, they would still be cool.’” Inspiration also came from his family in naming the company.

“My grandfather and uncle’s names were both Matthew, but my uncle went by ‘Matayo.’ When I was born, they called me ‘Tayo.’” During his junior year at Lewis & Clark, Rugamba designed a logo and started dedicating himself to developing the House of Tayo brand all while maintaining a full course load.

He set up Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook accounts for his business. And while he was interning in Washington, D.C., he had one of his friends take photos for the line. Rugamba didn’t have any models, so he was in all the pictures. A fashion blogger saw his Tumblr site and asked to interview him. During the interview, the blogger asked what advice Rugamba had for emerging designers.

Rugamba burst out laughing: he was one of them, too. Lewis & Clark has given me the confidence to push forward with an idea, no matter how abstract or crazy it may have first seemed.

Matthew Rugamba CAS ‘13 But not for long. Online traffic brought him more followers, feedback, requests, and publicity. Northwestern University flew Rugamba to Chicago for a fashion show. Then, in the spring of 2012, Africa Fashion Week London tweeted him: Was he interested in doing a show over the summer The strong response to House of Tayo comes as no surprise to those who know Rugamba. “Matthew is always engaged, innovative, and very ‘there’ in whatever he is doing,” says George Austin, an adjunct instructor in Rhetoric and Media Studies who led Rugamba’s Washington, D.C., program.

“He’s got this laser focus that’s going to make him very successful.” Rugamba is quick to credit Lewis & Clark for his liberal arts education and encouraging his development of the House of Tayo. “I’ve been able to explore different interests and aspects of my personality that I wouldn’t have been able to do elsewhere,” he says. “Lewis & Clark has given me the confidence to push forward with an idea, no matter how abstract or crazy it may have first seemed.” Things at House of Tayo do get crazy.

Any money Rugamba makes from selling his items goes toward making the next ones. His current priority is getting the word out about the brand, as well as juggling school, meeting social responsibilities, and teaching himself design. He is also participating in Lewis & Clark’s new entrepreneurship venture competition with teammates Wade Higgins CAS ‘13 and Anthony Ruiz CAS ‘13. All that can be physically draining, especially when people focus only on the industry’s glamour.

“It’s not like, ‘Champagne!’ ‘Models!’” he says. “It’s hard work.” After graduation, Rugamba plans to return to Rwanda to expand his accessories line. His products have always been made in Rwanda, and he wants to continue to support local artisans and businesses in his home country. It took time to believe in himself. “In the beginning, I didn’t think I had credibility,” he says.

“It took me a while to call myself a designer. I hadn’t paid my dues or been to fashion school. But the show in London … that was validation.” Rugamba says he started the House of Tayo “to share the best of Africa.” But it’s also about something more personal: “Having an appreciation of where I come from and pride in my heritage.”

Content Courtesy Of House Of  Tayo and Nairobi Fashion Hub

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