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Haute-Baso designs spell art and style

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Linda Mukangoga (right) and Candy Basomingera merge their design enterprises — Haute Rwanda and Baso Designs — into Haute-Baso in 2014. PHOTO | COURTESY 

By Denise Tuyi

Posted  Saturday, August 27   2016 at  11:13

In Summary

  • Linda Mukangoga, 31, and Linda Mukangoga, 35, merged their design enterprises in 2014. They had no physical store and used social media and pop-up shops around Kigali’s car-free zones as their marketing and selling platform for their merchandise.

When Linda Mukangoga, 31, and Candy Basomingera, 35, met for the first time after admiring each other’s work from a distance, they knew it was time to merge their enterprises — Haute Rwanda and Baso Designs — into Haute-Baso.

Haute-Baso, a social enterprise, was officially registered in March 2014 and to date makes highly sought after ready-to-wear clothes and jewellery; handbags, handicraft and house decor. Their unique products set them apart from the commonplace Rwandan bespoke trend.

Mukangoga and Basomingera, both graduates of International Relations, say their designs are created on the basis of something they both love and cherish — aesthetics. They design all their products themselves at an office they share at their shop in Kigali.

The business partners invested Rwf1.6 million ($2,000) each, and one of their objectives was to come up with products that could be recognised as ethical fashion brands.

Ethical fashion is an umbrella term used to describe design, production, retail and purchasing processes that cover a range of issues such as humane working conditions, non-exploitation of artisans, fair trade, sustainable production, environmental conservation and animal welfare. This is in keeping with modern trends in fashion where businesses strive to be good ambassadors of their products.

Haute-Baso products are made by artisans from 200 women’s co-operatives in keeping with its social enterprise agenda.

In the two years it has been in business, Haute-Baso has grown from employing four artisans to 202. “We are very intent on making the livelihoods of our artisans better,” said Mukangoga.

They also offer internships to budding entrepreneurs, and provide stipends for apprentices; and so far, since the launch of the internship programme, they have had eight interns. Part of the duties of the interns is to run the company’s social media platforms and see to the day-to-day running of the business in the shop.

In turn, the interns get to learn from each other, indeed, some of them have gone ahead and started careers or businesses of their own in the fashion industry, something that Mukangoga and Basomingera are proud of.

On their designs, Mukangoga said, “Our goal was to make stuff that was wearable. We did not want to make your typical basket earrings, which are cool; we make them functional too. For this, we import some of our fabrics,” she said.

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When they started in 2014, the duo had no physical store and used social media and pop-up shops around Kigali’s car-free zones, the Urban Cafe, Pilipili Bar in Kibagabaga and the Poivre Noire restaurant as the marketing and selling platform for their merchandise.

“This is what we started with and whenever we get the chance we still do it,” said Mukangoga. They eventually opened a shop at Nyarutarama Road near MTN Centre last year.

“The store is a reflection of who we are but there is no particular thing that fully defines us. We believe the entire store is our aesthetic expression, and our customers recognise who we are, and any piece from here is easily recognised,” explained Basomingera, a mother of two.

The shop also sells other companies’ goods such as the Felek notebooks from Ethiopia and Kurema Kureba Kwiga postcards (loosely translated as “create, see, learn”) from Uganda, in support of other social enterprises. The postcards retail for Rwf2,500 ($3) and are one of their cheapest products, while their most expensive as of the time of writing this story was the Haute-Baso trench coat that goes for Rwf75,000 ($95).

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