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Rising above adversity: IKAMBA’s journey to affordable and sustainable clothing

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IKAMBA Apparel is a Made in Rwanda clothing brand that has taken the fashion industry by storm. From its roots in Rwanda, IKAMBA is building its name as a go-to brand for both men’s and women’s clothing with its signature buttons inspired by Rwanda’s culture.

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Their buttons are based on ancient decorations found in Rwanda’s King’s Palace

The Made in Rwanda clothing company operates digitally via social media. They are currently developing a website, but for the time being, they only sell clothes on Instagram and Whatsapp.
You can find their catalogs, from which people can choose and buy what they want, which will be delivered to them.

The idea started with three classmates at the African Leadership University, Kayiganwa Mugabo Kessy, Mwanganjye Deborah, and Gratia Teta, they studied International Business and Trade with a shared passion for fashion and accessories.

They would often spend their free time discussing current trends and the fashion industry’s current situation in Rwanda, eventually identifying a critical gap – most locally made clothes were not affordable.

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Meet the founders- Mwanganjye Deborah (on the left), Kayiganwa Mugabo Kessy (on the right)

Kayiganwa Mugabo Kessy, one of the founders, said that they would look at the Made in Rwanda initiative and discover that most clothes were not affordable to Rwandans.

She said, “Some Rwandans had the means to buy Made in Rwanda but, the majority of them could not afford it.”

The women behind IKAMBA Apparel were determined to fill this void by creating a brand that offered high-quality clothes at affordable prices, representing their country’s fashion industry on a global scale. They aimed to provide fashion-conscious people in Rwanda and beyond with a clothing line that was affordable and accessible to all.

“We wondered what we could do to make high-quality clothes that people could afford. Clothes that are culturally inspired and that can represent Rwanda beyond our borders,” Kayiganwa said.

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Their aim is to “Crown your style”. Inspiring their designs from the Rwandan culture and your personal style

They, therefore, started their business in 2020. Starting a business takes courage, determination, and a whole lot of hard work. For the founders of IKAMBA Apparel, their journey was no exception. Along the way, they faced several challenges that tested them, but they never lost sight of their vision.

One of the obstacles they faced was finding the raw materials to create their clothing line. Some of the materials they needed were not readily available in Rwanda, and sourcing them from abroad proved to be a challenge.

“There are many things we have to import since they can’t be found here locally. It is extremely expensive. There are some materials we’d like to use but can’t find the right ones,” Kayiganwa said.

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They want to create affordable made-in-Rwanda clothes. Accessible for both Rwandans and foreigners

To overcome this, they conducted extensive research and reached out to other fashion brands for advice. Through determination and perseverance, they were able to secure some of the materials they needed to bring their vision to life.

They have also considered approaching the Rwanda Development Board and Ministry, RDB, and the Ministry Of Trade And Industry, MINICOM.

“ We considered approaching institutions such as RDB and MINICOM to showcase our findings and discuss and illustrate more on the raw materials issue in Rwanda,” she said.

They believe that such investments are required in the country. “We can even begin producing our fabrics in Rwanda. We can even make our sewing machines and other necessities locally. It would be less expensive and more convenient for everyone. It would significantly reduce the cost of the finished products.”

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They use a variety of materials, including linen, cotton, and silk

Another significant challenge they faced was the lack of capital. They had a lot of ideas but lacked the funds to bring those ideas to fruition. They knew that they needed capital to grow their business, but they refused to let this obstacle hold them back.

Instead, they found creative solutions to make the most of what they had. They worked hard, saved money, and looked for opportunities to pitch their business to potential investors.

“We wanted to do things like hold a workshop and create a website, but we didn’t have the resources to do so,” she said adding that they eventually had to raise money on their own from their full-time jobs and find ways to save.

“However, this did not prevent us from starting the business. We assumed that as we grew, we would have enough resources to do everything,” she added.

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In the face of adversity, IKAMBA aims at finding creative and sustainable solutions

As IKAMBA Apparel continues to grow, the brand has big aspirations for the future. Over the next five years, they plan to open a physical store in Rwanda and expand their reach by shipping their products internationally.

Their goal is not just to become a recognized brand in the fashion industry, but also to represent Rwanda all over the world.

They aim to stay true to their roots by incorporating cultural inspiration in their designs, and they are committed to being an eco-friendly and sustainable fashion brand.

By prioritizing sustainability, IKAMBA Apparel is setting an example for the fashion industry, showing that it’s possible to create beautiful and affordable clothing without harming the environment.

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They make clothes that can be worn by both men and women

The journey of IKAMBA Apparel is a remarkable one, and the brand’s aspirations for the future are just as inspiring.

The founders’ commitment to their vision and their determination to overcome challenges is a testament to the power of entrepreneurship.

These young women had to juggle between their full-time jobs, their studies, and also a business that required a lot of dedication both physically and emotionally.

Their story is a reminder that with hard work, innovation, and a strong sense of purpose, anything is possible. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for IKAMBA Apparel and the impact it will continue to make in the fashion industry and beyond.

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