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(Hello Africa) Designer preserves Rwanda's culture through fashion

Shining light on Rwandan culture is an important part of his work, says Moses Turahirwa, a fashion designer who believes Rwanda has beauty in fashion, embroidery, and patterns. 

KIGALI, April 7 (Xinhua) -- The showroom at Moshions fashion house is impeccably organized. With an array of designer outfits in different colors hanging below shelves, it's the sort of scene which offers a good reference point for fashion trends.

Located in downtown Kigali, Rwanda's capital, Moshions, founded in 2015, is championing premium quality, 100 percent Made-in-Africa fashion.

As the fashion industry continues to gain traction globally, designers are increasingly mixing traditional ideas to come up with unique wearable trends.

One such designer is Rwanda's Moses Turahirwa, 30, the creative director and founder of Moshions brand. Inspired by his own cultural roots, Turahirwa pays homage to the visual storytelling tradition found in Rwanda and across the African continent.

Moses Turahirwa, the creative director and founder of Moshions brand, receives an interview in Moshions shop in Kigali, Rwanda on April 1, 2022. (Xinhua/Huang Wanqing)

He opted for fashion as a passion to grow the creativity within him. "I started it as a hobby. It was after some time that I realized my culture and my heritage and that is how I started interpreting cultural roots into something modern using my creative talent," Turahirwa told Xinhua.

Shining light on Rwandan culture is an important part of Turahirwa's work.

The most popular of the products is the cardigan, which is renewed every year. According to Turahirwa, the cardigan is an inspiration from a sack hood in Rwanda, where people looking after cattle would craft something out of banana leaves to cover themselves. The ornament in it is the beading that is most represented by Intore, a traditional dance performed by men in Rwanda, so the designers try to fuse the story like a covering but also with a traditional dancing pattern of Intore.

Turahirwa believes Rwanda has beauty in fashion, embroidery, and patterns but interpretation in the fashion as it is in the world is still at the discovery stage.

Moses Turahirwa (R), the creative director and founder of Moshions brand, talks with a customer in Moshions shop in Kigali, Rwanda on April 1, 2022. (Xinhua/Huang Wanqing)

"Our uniqueness lies in the iconic interpretation of our culture to modernity and the discovery," he stressed.

The patterns come with a story, for instance, originally created and developed by Kakira, son of a king who lived in eastern Rwanda, patterns locally called Imigongo were used to decorate the walls of the interior of huts. The designs take the form of geometrical and spiral shapes to form fashionable patterns.

"We also have the values from the natural dyeing, craftsmanship, that is really deep and mostly hand woven and an interpretation of modern embroidery, so styles are characterized by the craftsmanship," he said. "Our customers are always excited from their perspective, when they come to our shop, we tell them about our collections and the stories behind our fashions. This is good not only for Rwandans but everyone around the world because it is relatable to other fashions elsewhere, thus creating curiosity and learning at the same time."

The company now employs 32 people. It is a creative business that provides a living through creating job opportunities for people in Rwanda, ranging from administration, tailoring, marketing to many other jobs, said Turahirwa, adding that his plan is getting the brand globally recognized.

Belyse Bugingo, who joined Moshions in 2018 as an intern, now works as the company's store manager. The 25-year old woman is proud that the internship led her to a permanent job.

"What I like about my job is that fashion is a burgeoning industry and is endowed with a lot of creative ideas that come along with the seasons. It is a job that requires someone to be dynamic, meeting people and making connections. The most common feedback we get is positive, customers are appreciative of what we do," she said.  ■