He may appear little known on the local scene, but that is not making Burundian stylist Juan Nsabiye shy away from tapping into the Rwandan industry.
Indeed, he is slowly moving from designing stylish ties, to customised wear.
The tall, brown, slim well-suited gentleman can be well spotted for his posture in dressing. Clad in a slim-fit suit, complemented by a designed neck tie, the tall, slim, brown gentleman wears his works.
His showroom, on the second floor of Rubangura Building in Kigali, which he shares with a few colleagues dealing in jewellery and shoe, does not jump at you.
With very few outfits, and other wearable like ladies shoes and jewellery, one would think that the designer holds little up his sleeves, until we discover his mode of operation.
Dealing in custom-made wear, Nsabiye revolves around a given client’s need.
“I prefer working on commissioned outfits by specific clients, who need customised outfits. These are surely bought and taken,” he explains.
Growing up, Nsabiye was influenced by his father, whom he describes as a classy person.
After an course in electronics at Ecole Technique Secondaire de Kamenge in 2013, Nsabiye moved to marketing.
His desire for styling kicked off in 2015, when he came to Kigali. Nsabiye designed bowties.
“I was making them for myself, after noticing how I needed something different from what was on the market,” he explains.
Hobby to business
But his hobby gradually turned into a business when he received compliments, and inquires from friends.
“Most wanted to acquire the ties, while others encouraged me and ordered some on commission,” he explains.
By then, Nsabiye held some short-term contracts with Victoria Seeds Company as a marketing personnel. He also did some translation gigs.
“I didn’t have skills about fashion, but You Tube tutorials came through for me,” he explains.
In September last year, Nsabiye applied for a designing job at Utexrwa Ltd, where he was enrolled on probation. Here he led a team of four to five tailors, which to him was a learning opportunity.
After working on a four-month renewable contract, he opted out. In January, he met Edmund, a tailor from whom he learnt a lot.
“It was another experience to him too, since my directives were beyond just measurements. I needed unique styling of these outfits,” he explains.
Style by Juan is the name the twenty-four year old has crowned his outfits. The stylist’s specialty lays in making bow ties and ordinary ties, which hold floral and other calligraphy shapes. His men and women suits are customised.
“I believe there is great freedom in customised wear. It is authentic and suits one’s style and desire,” he affirms.
Also dealing in making other casual outfits, the designer normally works with wool, a mix of linen and cotton.
Nsabiye’s pricing varies between Rfw120,000 ($143) and Rfw200,000 ($238), depending on material, make and accessories like ties, cuff links.
To Nsabiye, the need and burning desire for fabrics isn’t his worry, since he works with what is readily available material.
“I propose to my clients what is available, and in rare cases import on order when a client needs a specific kind of fabric,” he explains.
Cost of production remains a challenge — right from the material to the supervision and final making of the outfits is a chain, which comes with a cost.
This further finds related designers faced with a tentative mass of clients, who prefer imported outfits, which are at most cheaper than custom-made outfits.
“We are glad that the few clients we get are those who know the value and comfort of custom-made outfits,” he said.