Sunday 1st of October 2023

Nairobi, Kenya

Rwanda: Rwandese Lady Mugabekazi Lilliane Detained For Inappropriate Attire

In Rwanda, a 24-year-old woman is currently imprisoned for wearing “indecent” clothing to a performance.
The woman wearing the See me through dress with her pants completely exposed can be seen in the viral photo that went popular on social media.
As far as one could tell from the picture after noticing her black pant, one could tell she was braless, but it was impossible to tell if she actually wore a bra.
The Rwandan government then detained this woman and accused her of wearing indescent clothing. Mugabekazi Lilliane has been denied bail and will remain in custody as requested by the prosecution in a closed-door hearing.

News of the arrest sparked outrage among some Rwandans, but government officials including former justice minister Johnston Busingye backed the move.

Mugabekazi Lilliane has been denied bail and will remain in custody as requested by the prosecution in a closed-door hearing. She was accused of “Public Indecency,” a crime that carries a maximum 2-year prison sentence under Penal Code Article 143.

A 24-year-old woman named Mugabekazi Lilliane is in court today on counts of indecent dressing.

The image was captured during a concert in Kigali. However, her attorney requested that the matter be heard behind closed doors. The administration has committed to control indescent clothing.


Prosecutors claimed that she committed a “major criminal” by attending the event in “clothing that disclose her private parts…things that we label shameful.”

“We want the court to remand Mugabekazi for 30 days based on these significant grounds.”

“She may have engaged in public obscenity,” “Faustin Nkusi, a spokesperson for the prosecution, told AFP that the court would decide on Tuesday whether to grant her bail.

Some Rwandans expressed outrage upon hearing of the arrest, but government officials, including former justice minister Johnston Busingye, supported the action.


Busingye, who is currently Rwanda’s ambassador to Britain, tweeted, “The current issue of our young men and women who drink and drug themselves unconscious, stand in public literally nude, is unpleasant.

I support the initiatives taken to address it.

Last week, police spokesman John Bosco Kabera condemned what he called “immorality and vulgarity among young people” in a television appearance.

“This problem is getting worse… you see people walking about in just shirts, no shorts, no pants,” he remarked.

Then, wearing attire that resembles nets, these folks enter public spaces.

The first right is to dress correctly, not to wear indecently, he said in response to the program host’s question on whether “such people did not have a right to dress as they pleased.”

Content Courtesy of New 18 , Chimp Report & NFH

Divine Nshuti Muheto, 19 Year Old, Was Crowned Miss Rwanda 2022 At A Glittering Grand Finale In Kigali, Rwanda.

The Miss Rwanda Organization, which organizes Rwanda’s well-known beauty pageant, has concluded the Miss Rwanda 2022 contest by crowning the winner, Miss Nshuti Muheto Divine.

The contest finals were held at the Intare Conference Arena in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, with 19 beauty queens vying for the crown after a month of boot camp.

Several rounds of questions aimed at testing the girls’ beauty, brains, and cultural values were administered in order to select the top eleven, top five, and then top three girls to be Miss Rwanda and two runners-up.

Muheto, who represented Western Province in auditions and also won Miss Popularity, is the first non-Kigali contestant to win the title since Liliane Iradukunda in 2018.
Muheto takes the throne in place of Grace Ingabire.
“I feel happy, blessed, and grateful,” she said after winning the crown. And I’d like to thank everyone who helped me along the way.”

On top of that, Miss Rwanda 2022 received a brand new car – Hyundai Venue offered by Hyundai Rwanda – and will receive monthly facilitation of Rwf800,000 from the Miss Rwanda organization during her reign, among many other perks from the organizers’ partners.
Africa Improved Foods (AIF) Rwanda will also provide financial support for her ‘beauty with a purpose project.

The 19-year-old beauty queen, a high school graduate, won the crown after beating out Maolithia Keza and Darina Kayumba, who finished first and second, respectively.

The girls responded in English, whereas participants may respond in any of three languages: French, English, or their mother tongue Kinyarwanda.
The Miss Rwanda pageant is accompanied by a slew of lucrative prizes from a variety of partners. This year’s winner received, among other things, a brand-new Hyundai car from Hyundai Rwanda.

Meanwhile, among the 19 girls, several other positions were awarded, including the girl with the best health and reproductive initiative, sports challenge, Miss Photogenic, Miss Talent, Miss Popularity, Miss Heritage, and Miss Innovation.

Previously, parents discouraged their children from competing in Miss Rwanda, fearing that it would distract them from their studies, given that the majority of them are university-aged girls.

Others worried that the girls would abandon their Rwandan values, but things have changed and participation has increased. The Miss Rwanda pageant has also grown in importance as a venue for advertisers.

Content courtesy of NFH

Matthew Rugamba Dressed For Success: Rwanda Fashion Label House of Tayo Breaks New Ground By Going Global

Kigali – Matthew Rugamba knew his Rwandan fashion label had arrived when Junior Nyong’o, the brother of Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, attended the world premiere of “Black Panther” in a three-piece suit designed by him.

Hours after the glitzy event in Los Angeles, the website for Rugamba’s brand House of Tayo exploded as inquiries flooded in from around the globe for his high-end creations.

“It changed the perspective,” the 32-year-old told AFP, still stunned by the turn of events that propelled his “made-in-Rwanda” label to a Hollywood red carpet.

“For so many years we have been telling people our fashion is good… but sometimes you need moments like that to really take it to the next level,” said Rugamba, who holds dual Rwandan and British nationality.

Kigali has yet to reach the heights of Africa’s fashion hub Lagos, but the capital of the small landlocked nation of 13 million hosts its own fashion week and draws a devoted clientele, comprising wealthy locals, expatriates, members of the diaspora, and tourists.

“I like the way they tailor the clothes, the way they design their clothes, I like the simplicity of it as well,” said Emmanuel Safari, a lawyer and frequent visitor to the House of Tayo boutique located in an upscale Kigali neighborhood.

“The clothes, you put them on and you feel good!”

Some Rwandan labels have even attracted the attention of President Paul Kagame, who was pictured wearing a shirt by bespoke Kigali brand Moshions.

‘Change the narrative’

But what is “Kigali style”? “It pops but it’s not flashy,” according to Jean-Victor Brun, a 50-year-old Haitian-American who came to Rwanda to develop projects in new technologies. “Modern, ethnic, and rooted in the identity of our country,” says Joselyne Umutoniwase, founder of Rwanda Clothing.

Identity is at the heart of many Rwandan brands, which excel in producing bespoke clothing – drawing on a tailoring tradition that dates back decades. For instance, Umutoniwase, who employs 45 people, incorporates the geometric designs characteristic of imigongo art – a style of painting that uses cow dung and natural pigments – into her creations.

Similarly, the beadwork found on royal headdresses and other traditional items finds its way onto jacket lapels, while Rwandan shoe label Uzuri K&Y borrows from the country’s weaving traditions to create braided sandals.

The brand’s co-founder Ysolde Shimwe said young designers like her were keen to change Rwanda’s image, 27 years after the 1994 genocide killed more than 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis.

“Ten years ago when you Googled Rwanda you only saw machetes, people killing each other and hungry kids in the streets,” she told AFP.

“We as designers in Rwanda are also contributing to change the narrative of Rwanda and mostly to changing how people perceive Rwanda because we are more than that, we are more than our historical background.”

Bullish prospects

Rwanda’s fashion industry has also received a helping hand from the government, which in 2016-17 massively hiked import taxes on second-hand clothing – mainly from the US and Europe – to promote local manufacturers.

The move, which saw duties multiply more than tenfold, effectively imposed a moratorium on trade involving the sale of secondhand clothing from the West at low prices to East African consumers.

Simultaneously the government allowed designers to import fabric tax-free, giving the nascent industry a boost, said Umutoniwase.

But, with more than 80 percent of the population living in rural areas, according to the World Bank, many Rwandans cannot afford these homegrown brands. Umutoniwase, whose prices range from around 70 dollars (60 euros) for a shirt to 80 dollars (70 euros) for a dress, told AFP the small market size presented big challenges.

Moreover, the devastation wrought by the genocide has also contributed to a huge skills shortage in the country, said designer Shimwe.

“Eight years ago when we wanted to start a shoemaking brand we could not necessarily find skilled labor, there was literally nobody that had experience or had shoemaking skills,” she said.

But in a sign of the industry’s bullish growth prospects, some of the nearly 1,100 staff trained by her have since gone on to found their own labels, she said.

“It’s a great cycle that we have been able to create.”

Content courtesy of AFP and Nairobi Fashion Hub 

Moshions launches Imandwa Fashion Collection SS22 in Kigali, Rwanda

As live fashion events made a disappearance under the Covid glare, the launch of Imandwa Fashion Collection by Rwanda’s Moshions Fashion House has relit the stage and set a blistering pace for the fashion industry.

Imandwa has also sparked debate on the critical but uncomfortable discussion surrounding gender stereotyping and masculinity and their place present traditional and contemporary society.

The November 8 and 9 showcase at Atelier, the newly re-launched space in Kimihurura, Kigali, rekindled the space that audiences knew events to be.

Easing of the pandemic-related lockdowns saw a gradual return of music concerts but Imandwa took to fashion.
Of note about this collection is the bringing together of the handicraft of Moses Turahirwa of Moshions, who designs outfits inspired by traditional and ancient art and designs. Right from Umwitero, the traditional wearable robe, complimented with entwined beadwork from the Imigongo, an ancient art form, into various finishes.

Cedric Mizero of Amizero Designs sparked debate especially for his unique makes; of abstract craft inspired by life and nature themes like the environment, space, and the wild, which he believes speak to generations.

This year’s collection follows their first collaboration last year where they produced the Zero-Waste Jacket, a long-sleeved stylish unisex outfit designed from recycled remains of leftover cloths pieces.

Striking difference
Unlike the typical fashion events where models graced the runways, Imandwa is a fixed exhibition, of live fashion models posing amidst traditionally crafted and preassembled fore and backgrounds, which occupy Atelier’s upper space.

A lively curated tour guide by the designers themselves takes the audience through their creations.
Male models dressed in jackets, shirts, and shorts, made mostly from wool, and silk. The outfits sport partially hand-dyed baselines along with the trousers. To add sparkle, they are ornamented with tailored hand-beaded embroidery of traditionally shaped craft. The outfit is supplemented with the Umwitero, a light silky robe that is wrapped from the shoulder, chest to waist.

The showcase is backed by well-crafted traditional sets, of a different make. One has bean ornaments, another stands amidst hundreds of bricks. Yet another in between clay pottery, while the last two models emerge from what seems like a grass-thatched African village hut.

Gender stereotypes
Imandwa brings to fore tradition. Even in their past collections, there has been a running theme to address gender stereotyping, with masculinity at the fore.

The male models, clad in African masks designed to emulate Rwandan faces of Amasunzu, an ancient hairstyle, emerge from the background and stand. For a few minutes, they look straight up, then slowly take off the mask, pose a little more before returning to their hideouts or safe spaces.

Content courtesy of East African & Nairobi Fashion Hub 

Rwanda to Host Commonwealth Fashion Council 2021 at The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)

The fashion and textile industries will be a focus of this year’s Commonwealth Business Forum, an event associated with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda. Business leaders, heads of government, ministers and senior policymakers will gather, in person, from 22 to 24 June 2021.

“Members of the Commonwealth Fashion Council such as Omoyemi Akelere, founder of Lagos Fashion Week, Claudia Lumor, the Ghanaian founder of Glitz Africa Magazine and the Glitz Style Awards, and Sheena Frida from the Kenyan Fashion Council have been invited to form panel discussions on re-thinking Pan-Commonwealth cooperation,” said Daniel Hatton, Chief Executive and Founder of the Commonwealth Fashion Council (CFC).

The CFC is a council of fashion industry leaders from across The Commonwealth, an association of 54 sovereign states headed by Queen Elizabeth II that is home to 2.4 billion people living on six continents. The 26th edition of the biennial CHOGM summit was due to take place last year before being postponed.

“Blue fashion, the sustainable use of ocean-based materials in fashion, will also be a topic of conversation, as East Africa enjoys untapped resources across its coastlines,” Hatton added.

As part of the forum’s programme on the global economic recovery, which spans issues such as supply chain disruptions and digital infrastructure, one session will be dedicated to the future of the textile industries in Commonwealth economies that were severely impacted by the pandemic.

“Fashion and textiles are crucial industries in many Commonwealth countries including Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Ghana. Government and fashion industry leaders will benefit from a post-Covid discussion about the future of the industry and its impact on sustainability, jobs, and rapid digital transition,” said Samantha Cohen, Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council.

Companies focused on the fiber to the fabric supply chain as well as apparel, footwear, and textile manufacturers such as Hussain Mills, Ravi Spinning Mills, MAS Holdings, Brandix, Hirdaramani Group, KAD Manufacturing, Shasha Denims, Nishat Group, Ha-meem Group, DBL Group, and Plexus Cotton, will attend from across the Commonwealth.

Content courtesy of Bussines of Fashion & Nairobi fashion hub

Highlights From Rwanda Fashion 2020

The fashion industry in Rwanda, like other sectors, suffered many losses last year. The industry was hit by the pandemic with a big drop in sales registered globally, as the demand for clothes and fashion accessories went down.

With the lockdown measures that were put in place by the government taking effect, fashion designers couldn’t organize any events which had been planned, hence setting them back.

Despite the challenges, this didn’t hinder new fashion entrants to showcase and exhibit unique styles.  We bring you the fashion highlights of 2020;

Ikamba Apparel

This is a lately launched ‘Made in Rwanda’ clothing brand with a touch of Vogue and a taste for African design, It was founded by Gratia Teta, Deborah Mwanganjye, and Kessy Mugabo Kayiganwa from African Leadership University (ALU).

Ikamba Apparel comprises three young students who are hungry to follow their dream, thus eventually creating a unity that led to a business. They are all students pursuing International Business Trade at African Leadership University (ALU).

The brand caters to all age groups and targets both middle and high-class clothing styles; epitomized via an assortment of elegant and streetwear.

Kezem clothing brand

23-year-old Emmanuel Keza Niyonsenga is the brains behind Kezem, a new Rwandan clothing brand that ‘communicates the Rwandan story and Africa in general’.

Though his skill is mostly self-taught, he also got additional training from Rwanda Clothing, a local fashion brand where he was skilled in the significance and power of a brand, and how to work with clients to satisfaction.

He has designed many of the Iwacu Muzika festival artistes, many of whom are Art Rwanda Ubuhanzi colleagues and celebrities like Alyn Sano, among models and other celebrities.

‘Rufuku’ collections

Laurent Nsengumuremyi, also known as Nelly, 25, also sought means to penetrate the fashion industry, which is why he invented ‘Rufuku’.

‘Rufuku’ is a fabric of old-fashioned blankets that he uses to make all sorts of attires, from blazers, cardigans, to skirts, dresses, and many others.


Zoi, which is Greek for ‘life’, is a clothing line that was started by the Mackenzies. This is a group of five young ladies namely Naomie Nishimwe, who is the current Miss Rwanda 2020, Kelly Uwineza, Kathia Kamali Uwase, Brenda Iradukunda and Pamela Loana Uwase. They are all related.

Their brand that was launched on October 9 produces clothes for all genders, with the choice to scale up an outfit liable on the size of the customer.

The Mackenzies use social media to market and advertise their own clothing line, acting as models for their own designs. The demand for their clothes was enormous which pushed them to work harder.

Moshions goes international

Local fashion house “Moshions” is not only focusing on the local market but also eyeing the international market in the most effective way.

Moshions’ aim is to create a traditionally enthused frill brand that has roots in Rwanda as well as Africa.

The brand received criticism recently when it unveiled its online store, as many people accused them of setting high prices for clothes that they think are not supposed to be expensive.

According to Dany Rugamba, the business manager at Moshions, the people who cannot afford a cloth will certainly say something is expensive, even when there are many others who can afford it.

To him, the same feedback was given even when the fashion house was just starting, yet people actually buy. It is this support that has grown the brand.


Fashion brands that featured on Beyoncé Knowles’ website

Four Rwandan fashion brands; House of Tayo, Inzuki Designs, Moshions, and Haute Baso on August 2, were amazed to see their creations listed among the top African fashion brands that featured on American singer Beyoncé Knowles’ website.

Most of the designers said that there was no application made to feature on the platform, but their designs were suggested by their customers and famous fashion stars in Africa and beyond.

East Africa Fashion Awards

Two Rwandan media personalities, Makeda Mahadeo and Christelle Kabagire were nominated for East Africa’s Most Stylish Female Host of the Year, at the East Africa Fashion Awards.

The event took place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in March. Makeda is a Kigali-based CNBC Africa journalist, media personality, deejay, and emcee, while Christelle is known for her fashion show ‘In Style’, which airs on Rwanda Television every Tuesday and Wednesday. The event sought to distinguish the most outstanding achievements of individuals and brands that contributed to the growth of the fashion industry in East Africa.

Face masks

When the government announced the compulsory wearing of face masks in public due to the Covid-19 outbreak, many fashion designers and manufacturers came on board to produce masks. While face masks range from Rwf300 (surgical masks) to about Rwf1, 000 (cotton face masks) for different sellers, Moshions drew a lot of reaction from the public as their face masks go for Rwf10, 000.

After thorough training on producing mask equipment and inspections done by Rwanda FDA, more than 20 domestic companies were authorized to repurpose facilities into the production of PPEs, in April. Although their worry at that time was that the demand for the equipment would exceed their supply, it is the opposite. By August, 40 local manufacturers had unsold stocks of over three million face masks.

Content courtesy of The New Times Rwanda & Nairobi fashion hub 

Rwanda Cultural Fashion Show and Africa Fashion Stakeholders to discuss future of fashion industry in Africa

Rwanda Cultural Fashion Show (RCFS) will on December 18, hold a virtual conference during which players in the fashion industry will discuss the current state of the African fashion industry.

Dubbed “The Future of Fashion Industry in Africa”, the webinar will bring together different stakeholders of the fashion industry to share experiences and discuss how private and public institutions can support Africa’s growing fashion industry.

The webinar will include discussions which will be in the form of a series of a thought-provoking panel. Key speakers of the event will include renowned fashion designers, fashion promoters, experts in textiles and fabric dyeing, fashion school teachers and some government representatives.

Celestin Ntawirema, the brains behind RCFS and organiser of the webinar told The New Times that participants in this webinar will share experiences on how to establish a successful fashion concept business, discuss challenges facing the industry and propose some solutions.

Mr Celestin Ntawirema & Miss Rwanda 2020 Umutesi  Denise

“Though Covid-19 halted most activities in the industry, we thought of creating a platform that will bring players in the fashion industry to share experiences and best practices so we can learn from each other how best we can push our fashion industry to another level. We also want to see how designers can go global through African networks,” Ntawirema said.

The African fashion sector is already impressing in the global market, something that industry players hail as a motivation despite the challenges they have faced in the journey.

Ntawirema, who has been promoting fashion for over the past eight years said that, from his experience,  many brands from all over the continent had established themselves among the best globally and are now selling big on the international fashion markets compared to Western fashion despite having few fashion schools that can drive the industry to greater heights.

He, however, lamented that investors are still reluctant to put their money in fashion-related projects because protection of fashion copyrights and fashion innovations is still low due to the gap in fashion literacy.

The webinar, he said, will be an opportunity for fashion players to show both the public and private sectors the potential that fashion has at its disposal so as to attract their investment and, on the other hand, call for support from the governments to create a conducive environment for fashion to flourish and become a sector which can contribute to the national economic development.

Some of the speakers expected for the webinar include Ruth Jackob, senior lecturer in fashion marketing Eastern London, Karen Uwera, the President of Rwanda Designers Association, John Bunyeshuri, the CEO and Founder of Kigali Fashion Week and Kenyan fashion guru Vinn Clizz, the Managing Director of Vinn Clizz among others.

Mrs Karen Uwera

Mr John Bunyeshuri

Mr Vinn Clizz


Though Rwanda’s fashion industry is being contextualized with the ‘Made in Rwanda’ policy but Ntawirema said that it’s a shame that One of the biggest challenges we have is that we have no fashion school that can prepare and raise future designers, models, or fashion promoters by profession.

“This is all down to the fact that Rwanda has no forum bringing together designers, models, promoters and other stakeholders to discuss to the future of this industry. We also need an umbrella or a fashion watchdog for all players in the fashion industry to ensure that the protection of our works is guaranteed,”

Rwanda may have local designers who are becoming successful but under hard conditions which the webinar is also looking forward to tackling.

The webinar outcomes are expected to respond to questions raised around African fashion industry from “who can design?”, “who can sell locally-made clothes”, and “who promotes fashion?” or even “who can basically support fashion sector?”

“We hope the webinar will find share responses to these questions together with the speakers. We also value new ideas from the public from which the future styling and fashion business in Africa can rely on,” he added.

Content courtesy  of The New Times Rwanda & 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

%d bloggers like this: