“In Rwanda, everyone wears a very classic and conservative style,” says Scorpio Ramazani Khoury. “The younger generation is out there trying to be stylish, but there is no establishment that sets trends.” So this 26-year-old, a mineral trader by profession, is trying to lead the way—and in the process, boost Rwanda’s reputation as a global exporter (of textiles, of course, but also minerals). Her fashion house, Made in Kigali, expanded in a year to employ nearly 50 tailors, and is currently working with the minister of trade on a large-scale training center in Kigali that could handle 3,000 tailors. “We need to grow the industry so that by the time the tailors are ready, two or three years from now, the market will be waiting for them,” she says.
Most of her business is industrial clothing—simple garments for construction, mining, and hospitals. Smaller-scale projects, though, garner international attention. One line combines brightly colored, East African wax fabrics with Western silhouettes, adjusted for Rwandan body types. Khoury, who was raised in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and studied graphic design in London, also mentors local designers and helps them produce capsule collections. And she constantly travels the world to show her wares. “For us to have a fashion industry in Rwanda,” she says, “people need to know that we exist.”
[Photo: Crystaline Randazzo]