Recognising the high potential of the Rwandan fashion scene, and having a passion for mainstream and bespoke clothing design, was the inspiration for Sonia Mugabo to make the move and establish a new and exciting fashion company in the country. Her label, Sonia Mugabo (SM) is winning legions of new fashion conscious fans along the way.
LoA met with the inspirational Sonia Mugabo at her store in Kigali, Rwanda recently to find out more about this wonderful fashion brand.
What does your company do?
Sonia Mugabo (SM) is a Rwandan fashion brand that was established by myself as owner in 2013. It was born out of my strong interest in design; and my desire to tap into the existing local artisan talent to make high quality men and womenswear. The brand made its first showcase in October 2013 at the Kigali Fashion Week, and attracted media coverage and market interest, confirming the need for its presence in Rwanda and Africa. Since then, the Sonia Mugabo brand has tapped into a demand for quality bespoke garments, receiving orders from middle and high-class women who were willing to pay more for better quality. Sonia Mugabo develops two collections each year, and throughout the year makes bespoke items for its clientele.
"The brand made its first showcase in October 2013 at the Kigali Fashion Week, and attracted media coverage and market interest, confirming the need for its presence in Rwanda and Africa."
What inspired you to start your company?
While studying in the USA, I had the opportunity to intern at Teen Vogue in New York. Moving back to Rwanda in the summer of 2013, I realised the growing need for Rwandans in fashion, but also the high potential of the Rwandan fashion scene. Naturally therefore, this became the perfect time for me to enter the industry. I then created my brand, Sonia Mugabo (SM), for the sophisticated lady in all of us.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
The Sonia Mugabo (SM) brand is very feminine, detail oriented and versatile, offering an eclectic mix of African trends and contemporary fashion. I strongly believe that Rwanda has a very rich culture with an artistic side to it, and I am determined to put the country on the world fashion map.
"I strongly believe that Rwanda has a very rich culture with an artistic side to it, and I am determined to put the country on the world fashion map."
Tell us a little about your team
As founder and Creative Director of Sonia Mugabo (SM), I am 25 years old and born in Rwanda. I have accumulated a wealth of experience in graphic design, fashion styling, writing, PR and social media. I hold a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a Major in Visual Communication and Graphic Design, and a Digital Art Minor from Buena Vista University in the United States of America.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Any entrepreneur will tell you this, starting a business is never easy and as human nature, when your business doesn’t bear fruits right away, you get discouraged. I’ve been doing this for two years and it’s been a testing process, from finding the right tailors, to having limited capital, and overall running a business with no educational background in business. But I’ve learned a lot and when I feel like giving up I think about the big picture and ask myself the question “why am I doing this?” And then I tell myself, Sonia, this brand is your baby and you got this!
"I’ve learned a lot and when I feel like giving up I think about the big picture and ask myself the question - why am I doing this?"
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Rwanda is developing in all sectors and I commend the government for it. So with the fashion industry, I see this sector creating jobs and new talents to boost the country’s economy. Rwanda is the future.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I never thought that at my age (25 years), I would own a business; it is a privilege I do not take for granted. My mother did not have this chance, not because she wasn’t able, but because of my country’s historical background and other cultural beliefs that a woman was meant to take care of her home. Hence, being able to own my business. Creating a brand story is never easy, it takes a lot of creativity and innovation to define a designer’s aesthetic. So it overwhelms me with joy when someone spots one of my creations and they can identify that it is a Sonia Mugabo design. For me, that is my proud moment.
"At the end of the day it is not about you, but what you are doing for your people and your community."
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
My advice would be to find that one thing that you are really passionate about and go for it, it won’t be easy and even when you succeed, stay humble and remember to use your talents to serve others. At the end of the day it is not about you, but what you are doing for your people and your community. For me it is about creating jobs, and building a successful Rwandan Brand.
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Why LoA loves it….
Having had the immense pleasure of meeting the talented Sonia Mugabo at her wonderful store in Kigali, and seeing at first hand the unique and beautifully crafted designs she is producing for her label, it is clear that this is a fashion name to watch over the coming months and years. Sonia is able to capture the essence of global trends in her designs, but with an inspired edge that is purely Rwandan. We think Sonia is definitely on the fast track to success, both at home and abroad, and her designs are destined to make the world sit up and take notice of the immense home grown fashion talent that exists in the country. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and CEO of Lionesses of Africa