African designers and textile-producers realized that imported European clothes began to replace their traditional garments and force out authentic African styles. In Uganda, a few women started their own business in the fashion industry. They work with young African designers and sell locally-made clothing. They use African fabrics, traditional patterns, folk embroidery, African accessories, etc. The main advantage of such local stores is that you can order the piece that you want right away – of the right size, color, and adornments.
This fashion store, selling items made purely of African fabric, was the brainchild of three Ugandan women who met while studying at University in South Africa. They invited different designers to showcase their styles and talent under one stall, believing there is great potential there.
“We knew that there were people that are actually creative, that are talented, young designers, upcoming intrapreneurs that could basically do the work but didn't really have anywhere to showcase”, says Angel Kalisa, director of the store.
Over 25 designers are reimagining accessories to promote the African brand.
All items in this fashion store are embroidered with African fabric, from the bath shoes to the jewelry and clothes. The designers here can turn Africa's fashion industry local by using African textiles to reduce expensive imported items.
Many Ugandans may still think that imported items are superior, and this is a perception these designers are hoping to change.
“It's not necessary that we have to actually import everything from the West and I think the good thing is that people have started recognizing that, as well and they are really supportive and supporting designers and being able to proudly wear like African brands and African designs and, you know, representing Africa”, adds Angel Kalisa.
With more people now choosing to dress African, these designers are hoping to win over customers by offering a service customized to the individual shopper.
“You can basically see something that you like and get it done straight away: the tailors, the fabrics… So, I think that's one of them. I mean, you're right here, you want something, you get measured and you get it done. Rather than having to wait to get the right sizing maybe or maybe there's different stuff that they've imported but it's not really your size, it's not really your style. But here, you like something you – even if it's customized, it can be done for you”, explains Angel Kalisa.
The businesswomen are hoping they'll be able to open more fashion retail outlets across the region, as business picks up. To that end, they are reaching out to more African designers in a bid to spread their message that wearing local designs is fashion-forward.