Two weeks ago, what was advertised as one of the biggest fashion shows to happen in Kampala was held in a warehouse in Industrial Area. Bold Kampala, a “fashion shop’ with offices in Kisementi, planned to mark its first anniversary with a mega show featuring 11 designers. 
Bold sells clothes, so it made sense to organise a show involving the designers of the clothes and accessories they sell. Bright idea and this should happen more often, I told myself when a friend in Tunisia suggested I check it out.
For far too long fashion shows in Uganda have been taken as entertainment, where people go to listen to music, watch pretty girls sashay down the catwalk, hang out with friends, and generally have a good time.
Fashion shows are and should be about selling clothes, where designers show what they have and people in the audience can pick out what they like. So, the crowds have to be able to see the outfits, preferably up close and personal. They need to see the colours and the fabrics of the outfits; and they need to see the actual work in putting the outfits together.

So I was hoping the Bold show would be different. Unfortunately it was not, and again the problem was in the production. Fashion shows are easy to set up and don’t need a lot of equipment or tones of lights to make them work; and very often you don’t even need to build a ‘stage’, or a catwalk. In fact the best fashion shows are small, intimate affairs, where people wanting to buy clothes make their choices.
The production guys at the Bold show had been criticized in the past for getting it wrong, so this time they took out all the stops, seemingly to show that, yeah, they got the lights and the equipment. The whole set-up looked like a Christmas tree, brilliant and colourful, but they don’t help in choosing clothes. And all those bright flickering screens at the back just made it more difficult to see the clothes. Good for music concerts, yeah, but not for fashion.
And the result was predictably horrible. When the models came onto stage, a bright purple light was on them. A few meters down the ramp and it was blue, by the time they got to the front, it was green. You could not tell what colour the clothes really were, and the models looked like aliens.
So, did the fashion show work for Bold? Did the designers who showcased get an avalanche of orders from the people who were there? I don’t know, but it is difficult to think they did. The really sad thing is that the people behind Bold, despite all their good intentions, did not really know what they wanted, and were probably happy with the whole show.

It is time everybody in the fashion industry in Uganda started to take themselves seriously. Like I told my good friend and designer Cindy, instead of going to Dubai for a holiday, she could take a trip to the Cape Town Fashion Week, Africa’s biggest and finest. Take a look around, even go backstage and see what a ‘real’ fashion show is like. Exposure is what is needed here
Several years ago Santa Anzo went to the Johannesburg fashion Week, and came back inspired. The result was the Uganda International fashion Week, and is seemed like fashion in Uganda was going to take off. But she got overwhelmed by everything, and has not held it for several years now.
Two years ago new kid on the block Brenda Nambi took part in the Swahili Fashion Week, and also came back inspired. She organised the ‘East African Fashion Extravaganza” and invited several designers from Tanzania. But she left the production to a guy more used to organising parties, and it was almost a disaster. The smirks on the Tanzania designers said it all, they are no longer the ‘poor cousins’ of East Africa, at least as far fashion is concerned.

Ugandans are notoriously content to accept mediocrity, but it is time we did away with the ‘Miss Katwe’ syndrome. We need a credible fashion week to drive the industry forward. Just like the PAM Awards, for all their faults, made the music industry better, so should happen to fashion.
Sylvia Owori’s Moto Couture show in October 2006 is probably the best ever put up in Uganda, but she had to bring in Face of Africa’s Jan Malan to help out. Malan is also behind the Swahili Fashion Week, so is that what is needed to take Uganda’s fashion industry to new levels?
We need somebody to re-create the air of International fashion weeks. Many of our designers (Brenda Maraka, Gloria Wavamunno) have been part of the London Fashion Week, they have seen how it is done, why can’t they do the same thing here? Wavamunno planned for, even launched, the Kampala Fashion Week, but sadly that also came to nought.
The Africa Walk Fashion Awards have been around for the last couple of years, but nobody really takes them seriously.
We really need to move away from the ‘Miss Katwe’s of this world. Let us take fashion seriously, and everybody will be better off. Designers can actually sell clothes and models make themselves some money. Can somebody take up the gauntlet?
By Kalungi Kabuye

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