We touch base with the Rwandan designer on the responsibility designers have to shape a better industry for the future of African fashion.
Style Dimension is OkayAfrica's seven-part series highlighting emerging designers from Africa and its diaspora. Along with giving you a glimpse of each designer's stunning work, this series is an introduction into their creative realm. In the fourth edition of the series, meet Rwandan designer Matthew Rugamba.
Matthew Rugamba is the founder and creative director of House of Tayo—Rwandan-based fashion label that using uniform and classic silhouettes to reflect on the past as a way to shape the present.
Rugamba began to tune more into his identity as an African after leaving home and living between cities like London, Swaziland and Kenya. "It's not that I ever had any doubts regarding my heritage, but it was the first time I've had been consistently called upon to represent my home; to speak for not only my country but my continent on any related issue. As a result, my appreciation for my culture and history became something that I became particularly keen on sharing. One of the most powerful ways I thought I could do this was through clothing. I wanted to capture that African style and elegance that you could spot from a mile away and that's how I came up with my first pieces—the unisex snood and bowtie combo." It was through that he realized design could be a tool for telling stories about his home.
Beyond fashion, Rugamba is using his efforts to empower the locals in his community. As one of five founding members, Mathew is apart of Collective RW—a local Rwandan fashion collective aiming to use their experiences and brands as a way to collaborate with industry experts to support and promote a dynamic creative sector in Rwanda. In turn Collective RW works to generate new jobs and empower opportunity-driven youth and underserved communities. By growing his brand, he intends to create spaces for others. Since the launch of his label in 2011, he's been featured in a number of major publications from Forbes to Huffington Post; and has participated in African Fashion Week in London as well as organized his own fashion week presentation in Rwanda.
I spoke with Matthew Rugamba about the importance of nurturing African talent and the responsibility designers have to shape a better industry for the future of African fashion.