Fashion redefined: Tomorrow, all roads lead to Kololo Independence Grounds for the first ever fashion week in Kampala. Gloria Haguma caught up with fashion designer, Gloria Wavammuno, the brain behind the night show and she filled us in on what to expect from this event.
Tell us about Kampala Fashion Week.
I founded Kampala Fashion Week five years ago, and then I had a launch which I thought would be the beginning of the fashion week. But later, I realised that I hadn’t created a team and a network of my own to carry it out, so I paused it. But years later, I have had time to build my brand as a designer; I have met a lot of people. During these five years, I also came in contact with LDJ productions who are the producers of Mercedes Benz fashion week, and they were willing to hop on board and be part of the fashion week.
I want Kampala Fashion Week to have a meaning to it. I know we have Milan Fashion Week, and New York Fashion Week, but I want Kampala Fashion Week to represent what is happening in Kampala, which is the growth in the industry and development. Plus we need to promote this craft, manufacturing quality, and sustainability.
So this is going to be the maiden show?
Yes. This year in May we had a fashion intro, which was mainly to introduce the team. The fashion week is under the association of the Great Lakes Arts Association, and the team under that is Kigali (Rwanda) and Bujumbura (Burundi). We also hope to expand as an association that promotes these weeks at the same time, and also bridge the gap between countries as consumers, manufacturers and artists.
So what should we expect from you?
Well, I am also waiting to see what to expect. But definitely a high quality and an example of designers that are sustaining themselves, within Kampala and outside Kampala and also creating jobs for the youth who are looking to join this industry, because at the end of the day, it’s a business.
Who are the designers that have been invited for this show?
We have Sylvia Owori, Kwesh, Martha Jabo, Kaz wear, Iguana Kampala, J&K Mbabazi, Catherine and sons, and I will be in collaboration with Zana, a jewellery company, and Jose Hendo from the UK who does a lot of couture bark cloth.
From my observation, the Gloria Wavammuno collections are not your regular items. You need to understand the idea behind the creation to appreciate it. Should we expect anything different this year?
It’s an evolution for my things. I am getting very simplistic with my style. But I love detail, and it’s always the orientated part of all my collections and the construction of it. But at the end of the day I want clothes that are personal, and make the consumer feel good about it, but can also be mixed in your variety wardrobes.
So I want to make pieces that last through time, and have it for a long time and pass it on.
What else will the show offer apart from the showcasing?
I feel like it’s a wonderful place for gathering because I believe art has that ability to create emotions and provoke things out of people, so I feel like anything seen in everyday life can create an understanding of that. We need more support as the arts, as designers and more consumers. Fashion is bigger than the glamour and glitz. There is a whole industry to tap into and grow, and have a good spirit in. I feel like fashion is sometimes connected to competitiveness in a negative way and cattiness. And I feel like we can stop that and create a team, gathering and a network of people. My arts teacher once told me that there is a consumer for everyone, so we don’t need to be fighting each other. If I see a garment made in a specific way, I need to have mine in the same way.
So you believe the fashion weeks are good remedy for the sluggish fashion industry in this country?
Yes. We need people to push the attention. Sometimes you need to make a boom to get attention. It’s creating an audience. At the end of the day, we need to do things the way our society understands them, and sometimes you only get an understanding when it’s put out in the media and creates a discussion. And when the discussion is done, then everything else can be added.
The designers chosen for the show are picked because they are sustainable, and have experienced many different situations in fashion. They have grown through the ups and downs trying to break into Europe and thinking maybe the money can help promote this country. At the end of the day, they are here to see Kampala grow.
So you believe we are getting to a time where fashion and design will get popular like banking, law, accounting and medicine?
Yes I do. At the end of the day, everybody has to get dressed. There is not just runway; there are many aspects to create a fashion show. So it’s a business. Tones of people in this country are living off it. It’s just not appreciated.
How much do Ugandans appreciate fashion?
A lot. People seem to be really trying to find their identity, which is what clothes are for. And our clothes reflect our moods and our socials statuses or the statuses we want to be in.
Gloria Wavamunno could choose to be based in Milan, or Tokyo or any of the fashion capitals in the world. Why do you choose to work from here?
I love my country. I really love being here. There is a wonderful vibe here. I am raised by individuals that are very hopeful and say you have the possibility to dream and everything is possible. So as long as I work at it, I can make it.
Give us a brief history of Gloria.
I am a young woman from Kampala. I was fortunate enough to go for my university studies in London and briefly in Paris. I studied fashion, design marketing in business at the American Intercontinental. I worked for Ozwald Boateng. From a young age, I was living with my aunt who was a tailor. My mum was also a tailor, but she left the business. So I am a young girl who is fortunate enough to be doing something I am genuinely in love with.
What runways have you been on?
I have showcased at Africa Fashion Week in Johannesburg, Arise Fashion Week in Lagos, Africa Fashion Week in New York, Paris Fashion Week, Berlin Fashion Week, and Kigali Fashion Week.
What’s your biggest milestone so far?
The first thing that gave me that sign that I was on the right track, was my first time to showcase at the Africa Fashion Week in 2010, when I was a new designer. I had just opened in six months. And then the magazine, Arise, came out, and it was the biggest magazine at the time. One of the designers came up to me after the show and told me they were going to put my dress on the cover and I was super excited. My dress came out with Oluchi wearing it.
From my interactions, some people find your prices quite hefty.
Unfortunately, it’s the reality of the consumerism. If someone goes into your shop and buys one dress in two weeks, you’re not making ends meet, so you need to have a high price. If we had more consumerism culture, we would have lower prices. But when I am selling one dress, then that one dress has to cover all the other expenses. I have staff and a studio to take care of.
So what’s the lowest amount I can spend on an item in your store?
I have shirts at Shs90,000.
What are the ticket prices for the Kampala Fashion Week?
There are 100 tickets available at Shs35,000 for students if you come with your ID. Then the regular are Shs45,000, and VIP tickets go for Shs125,000. The event is on this evening at Kololo airstrip. You can get yourself a ticket at Bold store.