The conversation on culture integration spurs a lot of controversial opinions. Whether it’s about clothes, artifacts, accessories or even food. But Winnie Kirabo, a Ugandan designer based in Spain uses clothes for inclusion of African and European culture. After moving to Spain, Winnie took fashion classes at the University of Gerona to help her learn the local language much faster. “I tend to lose interest very fast, I had to find something interesting to get my attention, so I decided to take fashion classes,” she says.
Early in her days, she noticed that Africans wore African print boldly, and Europeans wore their plain material comfortably. This partly inspired her to start a brand that fuses African print with European material in designs that communicate elegance and unity, and the results are catching the global eye.
The business has also helped her stay afloat, as part of a very small group of Ugandans. There are many West Africans in Spain but only around 40 Ugandans, “We are only 40, and I am the only Ugandan in my province” she states. “It was hard not having people that could fully understand me, be it in terms of culture or even filling up the void of being homesick. But with time my head got wrapped up in other things like going to university to study fashion, that got my head occupied with school work and self-development and reflection on how to move forward and achieve whatever I had set my mind on,” she says.
The now established designer uses fashion as her coping mechanism. For herself and others like her, who feel away from home, but wearing a piece made with fabric from Africa would make them feel more at home. The clothes are also for people that love to make a statement of elegance and class with Afro-European touch. “I mix African and European culture; it’s my occidental reality and my designs mostly outlay a mixture of African print and other global materials,” she says. The beauty of culture is that even when it is different, it is also similar in many ways and looking at similarities is a gesture that our society could use right now.
Winnie gets her inspiration from everywhere. “From the streets, from nature, from movies, from anything that involves clothes. It doesn’t matter if it’s male or female fashion, I am always seeing something that is rather interesting and can be developed into a style,” she says. But what she finds most important is to develop a personal style, that when you see things around you, you can immediately imagine how it can be developed into something beautiful. This is also why in her busy bag, a book or paper and pen never miss. Why? “so I can make quick sketches at any given time” she says.
In only 3 years years of business in Spain, the brand has collaborated with artists and public figures like dressing the Spanish singer Afrika Bibang in the 24th Spanish National Performing Arts Awards, the Max Awards.
She also brags of features in international magazines like Fashion United which is active in over 30 markets worldwide and is published in 9 languages and working with different photographers, stylists, models and other creatives who have all led to the brand crossing borders and getting features around.
“We also had the great pleasure of collaborating with an Afro-Catalan singer Marga Mbande on her show in one of the most important and historic concert halls in Barcelona, the Jamboree / Tarantos club. We were also lucky enough to collaborate with the modeling agency Piubella Models in the solidarity runway for the Catalan television marathon, with the University of Girona through the director of the Qstura fashion design school, Silvia Castelló,” Winnie says.
The creative celebrates the role and contribution of collaborations that her brand has benefited greatly from, and how she has been able to enjoy those projects and many other currently in the pipeline right now for the present and the next collection.
Looking back home, Winnie is eyeing Kaijuka Abbas of Kais Divo, “It’s clear that his work doesn’t run short of creativity” she says. She goes on to adore the cut of Anita Berly, describing her as a creator of beautiful female silhouettes. And lastly, she lists Larry Casual, who by far has the most elegant men’s wear, “in my humble opinion” she says.
When I quiz her about sustainable fashion, Winnie admits that it’s a tricky question because on one hand, it has a fast and an obvious answer but there are variables that must also be taken into account that the most used narratives often forget.
“The answer we all know and with which it is difficult to disagree is the scientific evidence we already have. We all have a part to play in the protection of our planet as the home of our children and for future generations whether as a consumer of fashion or even as a fashion designer. As a consumer, I think it’s important to buy clothes that can stand the taste of time. This will create a certain level of regulation on how much clothes are being produced by fashion brands, because the less the quality of the clothes you buy the more clothes you will have to buy. It also means that as we produce or wash the low-quality fabrics used, they lose the artificial colors which end up in water bodies, and the land and therefore end up poisoning what we eat, drink and break the food chain, which we all know what that means” she says adding, “but on the other hand it is difficult to ask the bulk of the population to invest their money for example in objects, clothes or technology that is environmentally friendly when we all know that wages do not allow it and the system doesn’t give viable alternatives while preaching that they have to do what they can’t do.”
Staying true to the issue, WYNE KIRABO only produces clothes on demand which means they work with the notion of producing only what’s required and thus reducing the amount of waste. As she looks for a more inclusive solution to this global problem, her brand resorts to sourcing out fabrics that are of good quality so that whatever they produce can last a long time. “But we are also aware that we must do our part to work together to make our society fairer. That’s why we created Wyne Kirabo Social which seeks to create dynamics to strengthen our children’s education” she says. Directly linked to WYNE KIRABO, they support Ugandan girls and boys who cannot go to school through Wyne Kirabo Social. WKsocial also brings Spanish teachers to Uganda to exchange educational knowledge and practice skills with Ugandan teachers. Find out more about WYNE KIRABO here
Website address: wynekirabo.com
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