By Richard Wetaya
Fashion designing is not only Charles Kasozi’s passion, it’s
also undoubtedly his stock in trade. The dreadlocked 26 year old, is in many people’s opinions, Uganda’s best fashion designer. His resounding wins at the 2012 Super talent awards, at the 2013 Style and fashion awards and at the Uganda men’s fashion explosion and style awards, attest to that fact.
Kasozi has slowly been curving out a niche for himself in Uganda’s fledgling fashion industry, with exquisite and atheistically pleasing clothing and shoe designs. At length, he managed to obtain a firm footing for his Kaswear fashion label through word of mouth marketing and regular showcases at fashion events. Of recent, Kasozi has been the go to fashion designer for most of Uganda’s A list celebrities. Stars like Africa’s next top model competition winner, Amaito Stacie Lagum, Bebe Cool, Navio, Bobi wine, Jose Chameleon, Seanice Kacungira have all stood a treat of Kasozi’s top of the range, colorful and flamboyant clothing designs. Others who have dressed to the nines in Kasozi’s creative designs include famous Canadian actress, Ava Vanderstarren and Canadian Skateboarder Cameo Wilson. His multifaceted jackets, cocktail dresses, blazers, suits, evening, office and casual wear designs have been showcased at red carpet fashion events, not only in Uganda but abroad as well. At the 2013 Vancouver fashion week showcase in Canada, Kasozi won laurels from a panel of fashion pundits, on account of his fashion design authenticity, showcasing clothing designs made mostly out of indigenous unrefined African fabrics like backcloth, sisal, bamboo sticks and paper. “I was the first African fashion designer to showcase at the Vancouver fashion week. I showcased a variety of my indigenous African clothing and shoe designs to an appreciative gathering of fashion aficionados and pundits. Needless to say, i walked down the runway to a standing ovation. Accordingly i was judged to have had the best collection out of the 43 designers who exhibited. The following week i was invited to have another showcase at the Canadian convention center where i also got rave reviews,” Kasozi says 2011 was another momentous and memorable year for Kasozi. His unique collections were profiled extensively in an edition of the Young Africa Visionaries, a New York based magazine. That same year, he was also profiled in the Canadian vogue magazine, Hush Magazine and in the Speak gossip magazine. The close of 2011 also saw Kasozi’s collections been featured in the Province, British Columbia’s leading newspaper. Kasozi’s first dosage of exposure was at the 7th annual Uganda hip hop summit at Sabrina’s Pub in 2009. That very year, he was also summoned to showcase at the 3rd annual Bayimba international cultural festival, a platform for budding artists, fashion designers and musicians, not only from Uganda but from across Africa. Whilst there, he networked with plenty of industry movers and shakers. The upshot from then on was that he was always posted on the inside scoop of major fashion events, taking place in Uganda. Casting his mind back, Kasozi says all these have been watershed experiences for him and he plans to take full advantage. “My dream is to be the top fashion designer, not only in Uganda but in Africa. With time, i will build a fashion house and school in Uganda. I want to fully expand my fashion designing horizons. Creating a wider market and publicity for my Kaswear fashion label and my urban indigenous clothing collection which i launched in Canada is what i’m firmly focused on now. My attraction to fashion designing is like that of a moth to a flame. Because fashion designing involves a lot of craftiness, i call it the science of appearance. Fashion designing is not just about making clothes as they it is in tailoring. Fashion designing is more intricate, it involves a lot of creative thoughts, concepts, attitude and observing people’s ways of life,” Kasozi says
Kasozi began fashion designing at the young age of 14, under the close supervision of his late mother, Fausta Nanyomo. “My mother was a skilled seamstress. She was a stickler for perfection. Most of the clothes she sewed, especially the Bitenge dresses were like something out of the band box, neat and snazzy. Initially she took exception to the idea of teaching me her craft. After some long drawn convincing however, she changed her mind, though she still wanted to see me go to school often. She taught me different complex techniques of stitch work as well as other design patterns, which have really come in handy in my work,” Kazosi says Taking root on his own was not easy. Kasozi’s family was not the most well off and his parents wanted to see him in school, not always seated trying to emulate his mother. Adamant that he would become a fashion designer, he sold the idea to a close friend who lent him money to purchase bales of second hand clothing. Contrary to what his friend expected, Kasozi instead embarked on redesigning the second hand clothing he had purchased into new styles, instead of selling to make himself some profit.
TRIUMPHS AND CHALLENGES
A determined Kasozi was able to launch his own label, Kaswear, with the help of friends from a community based institution called Bavubuka Foundation in 2010. Though financial challenges still reared their ugly heads, Kasozi was able to weather through the storms. He says he had to think hard and creatively on ways of how he would stay ahead of the competition that existed then and how he would penetrate the ever unpredictable Ugandan market. “At the threshold, things were tough. I did not have my parent’s support. Mum taught me the craft but she did not subscribe to the idea that i should make it a profession. Starting Kaswear was no easy feat. After i got into some kind of stride nonetheless, i set forth in earnest, designing stylish and trendy clothes for both men and women using local and organic fabrics. I used a lot of striking custom-made etched out artwork on most of my first outfits. That was like a trump card of sorts for me, because i got many clients at my first attempt to publish my designs. The first clients i got spawned an urge in me to put in more work and with more hard work, i have evidently made strides. Kaswear is now one of the most sought after fashion houses, not only in Uganda but across Sub Saharan Africa,” Kasozi says
FAMILY AND EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND
Kasozi was born to Mister Goldfrey Bukenya and the late Fausta Nanyomo in 1987. He is the second born in a family of 5, four boys and one girl. One of Kasozi’s younger brothers, Julius Muyomba is following in his lead, striving to emulate his brother by taking up a career in fashion designing.
“I dropped out of my computer science course at Makerere University. I had lost interest in whatever i was being taught. I figured it was not my calling. My parents literally obligated me to take the course but i became apathetic, on grounds of what i was observing in our job market. I thought to myself, what am i doing this course for, when i can do something creative to break the mould. Behind the scenes and without my parent’s consent, i enrolled for art and designing classes. I just wanted to follow what my heart was dictating,” Kasozi says
“Besides the annual showcases, i have at the Uganda hip hop summit shows every December at Sabrina’s Pub, and at the Bayimba art festivals, i’m planning something big and groundbreaking this year. I plan to start my own fashion showcase and am looking at introducing new and vibrant clothing designs. My designs always have something African about them. I fancy mixing African cultural fabrics with modern trends. That will surely set me apart once again,” Kasozi says