Friday 27 January 2012

Rwanda's upmarket fashion house eyes east Africa market

Mille Collines, one of Rwanda's leading fashion houses, has set its sights on marketing its popular mix of traditional African prints in modern cuts to women all over East Africa.

KIGALI, RWANDA (REUTERS) - Already a household name in Rwanda, local fashion house Mille Collines, which means a "thousand hills" is making strides into the competitive fashion market, by setting its sights into the East African market.

Mille Collines, which was established in 2007, already has a presence in Europe and in the US, thanks to its two spanish co-designers.

The fashion house has now grown to a workshop of 28 staff, based in Rwanda.

The designers behind the fashion label attribute the success of the workshop to the fast pace of formal training within the Rwandan fashion scene.

"First and foremost, the fact that our job allows us to create something that is loved by many, who are not just in Rwanda but who are also outside the country gives us a lot of joy," said workshop manager Antoine Karegeya.

The Rwandan fashion house opened its first outlet shop on the outskirts of Rwanda's capital Kigali, and is often streaming with customers on a daily basis.

"We are different to other merchants because first of all the theme of our shop is beautiful, its natural and wooden, and second the quality of our products are different. We put an emphasis on promoting locally made goods, so nothing of this is imported," said assistant manager, Aline Kabanda.

Although the designers behind the fashion house work with co-operatives Rwanda, who make accessories such as buttons and do embroidery, the designers do their own clothes, to maintain quality.

Mille Collines was the toast of town recently at a fashion show to showcase the house's latest collection, attended by the whose who of Kigali.

Co-designer Ines Cuatrecasas, stresses Mille Collines is built on quality, with a fusion with a lot of neutral colours on natural fabrics like cottons, raffia and skills, with a touch of accessories like buttons and a bit of color to the garments.
"I think this brand attracts any kind of people. If they are living in Africa, they will have attraction for the continent, so they will feel attract to African side of it, and then Rwandans feel attract to it because it talks about their country. So they was there was a mingle and mixture of many different cultures and I think this is what it is about. It is created product in Africa that this is likable anywhere," she said.
Fans of the fashion house raved about the vibrant colours and use of African bold prints in the latest collection.
"It was absolutely fantastic: loved girls, loved dressing and details. It shows that designer made a lot of attention to details, and I loved the colors, I loved the fabric and the style," said guest Tita Akamanzi.
According to the designers, Mille Collines biggest market is the US, where they sell through the Macy's department story. With a store, in Kenya's capital Nairobi, Mille Collines is looking into opening another store in the he coast town of Mombasa, and into neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda.

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