Haute Baso is a contemporary Rwandan fashion and accessories brand.

Two Rwandan fashion designers, Candy Basomingera and Linda Mukangoga joined forces and merged their brands to create Haute Baso in February 2014. I modelled for their latest collection – I’m on the right.

Since both designers grew up abroad, western influences are quite present in their collections. However, they never neglect their African roots. Rwandan culture plays a big role in shaping their decisions on how to cut the fabrics, how to mix materials, colours and so forth.

They are very keen on using elements from the local traditional arts such as the Imigongo; a famous art form crafted from dried cow dung. Believing that there was a gap in the local fashion scene where it was hard to find easy-to-wear clothing, they decided to create lines that would be accessible to all.

Candy and Linda also work towards promoting women and youth empowerment through job creation, training and mentorship programmes. These can help the artisans they work with build self-esteem, improve communication, business skills and innovate in their art.

‘We want to show women that you can be young, be a woman with a vision and dreams and actually achieve what you set your mind to and succeed as an entrepreneur’ says Candy.

She then adds that focusing on women is key since empowering them automatically leads to empowering families and communities at the same time.

‘It has been shown that women invest a higher percentage of their salaries in their household.’ she continued.

The designers buy the raw materials themselves, sourcing them locally to the extent that is possible. Since there is no textile industry in the country, they have to travel to buy fabrics.

Rwandan artisans are involved in quite a big part of the manufacturing process with the fashion designers doing the drawings and the local tailors implementing them. They are paid a fair wage that allows them to cover the costs of their basic needs and live quite comfortably.

They also get the chance to develop their creative skills and techniques in the process, and get wider exposure for their work both on a domestic and international level. Working with Haute Baso gives them access to a space to exhibit their work as most don’t have a shop themselves.

Haute Baso’s ambition is to employ as many people as they can, especially women and build a structure which will be host to a training centre, ideally welcoming up to 500 artisans.

‘By growing our brand, we also want to take as many artisans as we can on board with us, and show abroad what Rwanda is capable of’ reveals Candy.

The designers are working hard to put Rwanda on the world fashion map by showing the potential, creativity and talent that can be found locally. Rwandan fashion is not only accessible, it is also chic and contemporary!

Check out more at Haute Baso here