Passion for fashion: Wondering where to bump into your socialite? All it takes is walking into one of the many boutiques in this town, and who knows, Judith heard or Zari may be on hand to serve you. Yes, it’s trending that much. As if in some sort of race, our socialites have taken to the boutique business with so much enthusiasm, writes Gloria Haguma.
What is the name of the boutique and when did it open?
It’s called LKay Collections at King’s Gate Mall in Kabalagala. It opened in February this year. We deal in trendy stuff for ladies, gents, and sometimes children.
Was the boutique the only business option you had?
I like to do things that I love. Music is my first love and fashion is my second love. I believe these two go hand in hand.
Had it been frustrating to get clothes for your videos before you opened up your boutique?
It was very frustrating because sometimes you have to dress according to the theme of the song. So finding all these items can be hard if you don’t have constant supply. But now I travel and shop, so I always get what I want.
What age bracket can shop here?
I stock for all ages. Even if I see something good for the children, I will bring it. That is why I call it a collection. As long as I see something nice, I bring it. I have tried to cater for all age groups. I even have some suits for someone like my mother, I have Kanzus too.
Do you think being a socialite makes the whole boutique business much easier?
Yes it does. Because people will walk in here specifically looking for Leila Kayondo. So they come looking for that specific shoe I was wearing or a dress.
There is one thing I have noticed. Many of the items in these “socialite boutiques” are usually very expensive. And yet your average fan is a campus girl that may not be able to splash Shs400,000 on a bag. Why are your prices very exaggerated?
We all love beautiful things and honestly these things are usually expensive. But here, I try to be as fair as possible. I even have things that cost Shs20,000.
What’s the cheapest thing here?
I have vests at Shs25,000.
What do you think sets this store apart from the rest?
I think what sets it apart is that its Leila Kayondo’s. And then, I stock trendy stuff. I watch a lot of fashion shows, so I always know what’s on and that’s what I stock.
Do you wear some of the clothes in here?
No I do not do that. I think it is uncool. Imagine I step out in an outfit at night then a customer is here the next day asking for the same exact outfit and it’s dirty because I wore it the previous day.
So you buy two pieces, one for yourself and one for the store. Don’t you mind showing up at an event in the same outfit as a client?
No I don’t. I would actually feel proud. Fortunately that hasn’t happened yet since I do not recycle my clothes.
Oh, so you wear something once and throw it away?
Not throw it away. I have many friends and sisters that I can give them to.
Do you believe the boutique completes one’s socialite package?
Yes I believe so. Not exactly a boutique but at least any side business. I have seen other celebrity friends open up hardware stores and even retail shops. It’s all about what you love.
What famous male faces have shopped here?
I have had Chameleone come in here, Ray Signature, Dan Flavour, Shadrack, Innocent of Amnesia has shopped here, and S.K Mbugga shops here too.
Where do you go shopping?
I shop from South Africa, Turkey, and the UK.
If you weren’t in the boutique business, what would you be?
I have a degree in Social Works and Social Administration, so, I would be a social worker. I also have a diploma in IT.
What is the name of your store?
It’s called JH Flaunt Your Style, at Village Mall in Bugolobi. It opened in September 2011 at Forest Mall.
Why did you opt for a boutique?
I have always loved fashion. Even as a child, I had an eye for fashion. I even did some modelling. But when I had babies, I figured it was time to stop, and focus on my children and my husband. So when I got out of modelling, I opened up a store, so I could still be involved in something that I had a passion for.
Did you have any business experience? Did you go to business school?
Never. I have never been to a business school.
So how do you manage to run this place?
My husband and I work together. And I also have a sister that studied business administration. So they help me run the place. I have the eye for the clothes and my sister has the business mind.
Honesty, does this boutique business make that much money?
Honestly, it does not make a killing. But you make enough. If it wasn’t making money, it wouldn’t still be open.
What’s the connection between socialites and boutiques?
Personally, I think it’s a business that is easy for everyone.
Do you pick any emergency clothes from your store?
Yes I do. But when I pick something, I have to pay for it. If I came here, and I see something I like I pay for it.
Do you bring some of your cast off items to the store?
I don’t do that. When I wear something, I don’t want to bring it here to be sold, because it’s not new anymore. I sell my old clothes to my friends. And occasionally, I do a garage sale. I am too skinny, so I don’t think the price tag for most of my clothes would be fair to the customers.
Where do you go shopping?
I go shopping in the US. It’s easy to shop there because I am there most of the time. I have never been to China, so all my clothes are from the US.
Are you here full time?
I am here occasionally. My focus is on my children and my husband. I am a 24 hour housewife and mother.
Is this the only business you run?
Yes, this is my side business. My family is my main business.
Would I be right to say that the store complements your lifestyle as a social lite?
Not really. I think my social life and the boutique are worlds apart. It helps that I own the store so people will drop in, but I don’t think it completes the package in any way.
What’s the cheapest item in this boutique?
The jewellery is the cheapest here. We have earrings of Shs25,000.
And the most expensive is …
The gowns are the most expensive pieces here, going for about Shs700,000.
What is your average clientele like?
Most of them are corporates. I also have a lot of my friends coming in. Then we have business women, foreigners and even Members of Parliament.
Which celebrities check in here occasionally?
Juliana, Angela Kalule pops in once in a while, and Iryn Namubiru.
Do you stock on brands here?
No we don’t. We bring stuff that is nice but affordable. If you bring a Gucci dress, no one is going to buy it.
Why a boutique and not any other business?
This boutique is not my only business, it’s my 11th business. Most of my businesses are located in the US, Palm Beach, California, but opening up a boutique in Kampala is expansion of entrepreneurship, mostly because I wanted to provide a unique service and to share my sense of style with fellow Ugandans.
What is the name of your boutique and when did it open?
Diva Fashions’ Boutique, located on Tirupati Mazima Mall, on Ggaba Road.
Did you have a passion for this?
Passion? Definitely. There’s no business that can become successful if you don’t have your heart in it. But I must say it’s not easy at all. Just like any business, it requires hard and constructive work.
You are a former Miss Uganda. What’s the connection between being a socialite and having a boutique?
I didn’t open up this business simply because I am referred to as a “socialite”. I believe that to be successful in business, one requires a whole lot more than fame. It takes brains to succeed..
So which fashion designers do you stock?
We cater for both men and women who love to own unique pieces, which won’t be seen worn by others in Kampala. It is the service I guarantee my customers. It’s the only store in Uganda that carries original brand names like Jimmy Choo bags, Jordans for men, Gucci, LV , DKNY , Calvin Klein, Versace, Hermes and other major brands, which are only available in the US. We also carry middle name brands like Bebe, Micheal Kors, Steve Madden, Victoria Secret, BCBG and others.
Is this business, profitable?
Of course, but to a certain extent and it all depends on how it’s run.
Do you wear some of these clothes, before you put them up for sale in the boutique? The boutique may be viewed as an easy channel to dispose of your old clothes …
Not at all, my personal clothes are super expensive, big brand names and some are limited edition runway pieces. Besides, most of my customers are more curvaceous and bootylicious than I am. My tiny outfits could never fit them.
Are you able to run the boutique full time?
It is a family team effort. While I am in the US chasing more goals, my siblings are in charge. I am thankful for their generousity.
If it wasn’t a boutique, what other business would you venture into?
As I said before, I run several business including a medical anti-aging spa and I am also into real estate especially residential condos in Palm Beach. The only reason I haven’t dipped my feet in expanding these business in Uganda, is my short holidays. But when I change my residence, I will consider running more business in Uganda.
What’s the name of your boutique?
It’s called HL (House of Lukoma). I opened it in December 2012.
Why a boutique?
Because I love fashion. And at the end of the day, every one has to dress up.
You are on Kampala Road, in the middle of town, what many would consider downtown? Why did you choose this location?
For me, this is between up and down town. So I have clients coming from up market and those coming from down town. If I had gone to let’s say Kololo, then that would be unfair to my downtown clients.
On average, how much money do you make?
I can’t tell you that. But I make enough to get me by.
Is your boutique a selling point for those clothes that you let off from your closet?
Yes, I have gotten to a point where I wear a dress and a client wants it. And it works because being a celebrity, sometimes you wear something once and can’t wear it again. So what you do with it after that? Seriously if Rihanna gave me that dress she was wearing the other day, I would wear it.
Is the boutique a complement to your status as a socialite?
Well, I believe at the end of the day, what you wear reflects a lot on who you are. And for me to have a boutique is a way to reach out to people that love my fashion.
Do fans bump into you here?
Yes. There was this one time some ladies, probably my mums age, came in, and they were so excited, they took pictures with me and called their daughter. It was so sweet.
Do you have selfie moments with your customers?
Yes, I do get a lot of those.
If I have Shs5,000, can I be able to buy something here?
Yes. I have ear studs that cost that much. I have boots that cost Shs400,000 but I also have shoes that cost Shs80,000. So this place is actually affordable.
What is your average customer like?
I have different clients. I have corporates, plus students who are always having proms and other parties.
Which celebrity frequents this place?
Many. Shamim, Sarah Zawede, Barbie, Leila, even Maurice has supported me.
Did you study business?
Yes, I graduated from Mubs, with a Bachelors in International Business, majoring in statistics and accounting.