By Karenhappuch Ibiara

Editor’s Note: This is the inaugural piece from EA Scene’s fashion columnist, Karenhappuch Ibiara.

Image Courtesy: Giulio Molfese

Every designers’ dream is to showcase at a fashion week in their town and Kampala is no different, for just two million shillings Ugandan, a designer can write the story of their own showcase: but gaps abound in the scene.

With a different theme and location every year, Kampala Fashion Week (otherwise known as KFW) has continued to grow and attract lots of fashion  hopefuls, figures, hangers-on and creatives from across Africa; and also serves as a preeminent forum to expose local brands to the ever-elusive international and ‘high end’ market. In turn it  has encouraged creative exploration and forged partnerships between local brands and African marquee names: (like Nina Mire collaborating with Nigerian brand Ekete last year).

Kampala Fashion week Spring/Summer2020 themed as the ‘KFWTemple’ ranked as the top so far from where I sit, with designers like Gloria Wavamunno, Eguana Kampala, Catherine & Sons and Nina Mirembe who showed consistency in their aesthetic. While we saw a lot of talented designers, we also saw the flip side, unserious designers taking this opportunity for African talent through fashion as nothing more than a two-bit joke. 

In terms of designer growth, I still think we have a long way to go, as some designers do not follow any trends in terms of colour or print, they show collections that lack any cohesion at all and seem to repeat collections; which leads me to wonder, is it that they aren’t aware of the concept of fashion week, were they  somehow unprepared to show anything, or do they simply not care; failing to recognise and realise the stature of the platform?

How would you explain designers showing these dresses you find downtown in Kikuubo and all-over Kampala as their own work? Moreover, on the big stage of KFW, we have seen blatant plagiarism (this could be as a result of following and idolising designers like Jeremy Scott of Moschino himself found to be copying the works of fashion graduates and junior designers). Not to dive deeply into a full on rant, but we have seen designers Google dresses and copy them, stitch for stitch only to come and present on the runway. If this doesn’t spell unserious, I don’t know what else could. I believe these type of designers shouldn’t be given the luxury to show at a huge platform like Kampala Fashion because they least present the industry to the world. Their presence demeans the Ugandan talent that could have shone in their stead.

This also leaves me wondering, how are these designers chosen anyway?

Look; Uganda is a country that is rich in culture, something that is shown in the seats surrounding the runway at KFW as they’re filled will international fashion professionals, stylists, photographers, scouts and editors. As such, we wouldn’t want to be taken as a joke.

Hope is not lost. I have seen a lot of talented designers all over Kampala (just look at Sham Tyra) and want to encourage them to apply and participate at KFW, collaborate with other designers, and grow this industry of Uganda. One key thing that’s failing this industry is that professionals don’t want to collaborate and support one another, there’s such competition in who is better than who, and yet this is exactly why the industry will not grow. If we could put our egos aside and concentrate on building the fashion as a whole from within; Uganda could make waves. 

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