East African fashion scene is becoming more vibrant and dynamic. The Kampala Fashion Intro 2014 took it a notch higher recently. There was a big treat for fashion lovers as exquisite designs from some of the top creative names in the region were showcased. The aim of the event was to promote fashion and the arts as a serious business, while promoting unity in the region.
The event at Kampala Serena Hotel was the precursor to this year's regional fashion weeks to be held in August in Burundi and Rwanda in early November. This will be followed by Uganda's Kampala Fashion Week slated for November. The events will provide networking opportunities for those in the fashion industry.
Featured on the runway were glitzy catwalk collections by international fashion labels from the East Africa region. They included Gloria Wavamunno, Anna-Clare Lukoma of Lulu, Balungi, Isabella Asiimwe and Xenson representing Uganda; Cynthia Rupari, Kelvin Kagirimpundu and Patrick Muhire representing Rwanda; Sheria Ngowi from Tanzania; and Cynthia Munwangari and Krystal Bell from Burundi.
"This festival obviously incorporates all aspects of the fashion industry; the cultural, the modern, the hippy and trendy. Our anticipation is that this will be a trend-setter for the local and regional fashion industry as well," Joel Kanyamunyu, director at Great Lakes Arts Association told the Star.
Kanyamunyu said that fashion need not be limited to expensive designer brands, left-of-the-mainstream labels and trendy statements.
In addition to the runway shows highlighting avant-garde lines of casual wear, evening gowns, wedding fashion and cocktail dresses, the two-day-long soiree also hosted discussions aimed at promoting and supporting the creative talents in Eastern African region.
"We need to embrace our Ugandanness and love Made in Uganda products," said Anna-Clare Lukoma, 35, who teamed parachute hem dresses with kooky glasses, turbans and statement jewellery from local brand Balungi. Balungi's creations were made from horn, banana fibre and paper sourced in Uganda.
Lukoma drew inspiration for her Lulu label collection from local culture, using a palette of earthy oranges and browns, and black and blue.
"Kampala is so chaotic that we need to create our own Zen moments, and what better way to do that than drape ourselves in calm, luxurious fabrics that are comfortable and easy to wear," she said.
Lukoma launched Lulu in 2011, but now wants her involvement in the industry to stretch into making a positive impact on development and social consciousness in Africa. "We have more than 80 per cent of our able-bodied youths unemployed in Uganda," said the designer, whose clothes were part of a United States Urban Outfitters African Bazaar pop-up shop last year.
"In our jaajas' (grandmothers) times, most people knew how to sew and took pride in creating replicas of high-quality foreign garments. These skills were not transferred to the next generation because academic skills became more revered."
The fashion do was jointly hosted by the Great Lakes Arts Association, an organisation run by the famous fashion industry bigwigs of Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, as well as LDJ productions -- prime organisers of the New York Fashion Week and Kigali Fashion Week. RwandAir, Kampala Serena Hotel and Mashanyu Media were the main sponsors of the event.
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