Finally!!! Rwanda has taken the bold step to ban second hand clothes.I know life without ‘mitumba’ is unimaginable. It is how majority of the Rwandan population and the rest of the East African region get their clothes. When you hear second hand clothing you think ‘affordable’, ‘ready-to-wear’, and ‘diverse’. Then when you hear locally-designed clothing you think ‘expensive’, ‘Prêt-à-Porter’ and ‘similar’. There has to be paradigm shift on how we look at local African fashion and build our own industries and tell our own story.
Simply put, there is extreme clothing consumption caused by fast changing fashion at cheaper costs with reduced quality. Ever wonder why ‘mtush’ never lasts that long – that’s your answer. Due to this, countless of Rwandans and the rest of the EAC community continue to consume more and more just because a top goes for 20/= and a pair of jeans at 800/=. This in turn caused second hand clothing to dominate the fashion scene, leaving the Rwandan fashion industry far behind.
What will this ban, once implemented, mean for the Rwandan fashion industry? To the existing local brands such as Rwanda Clothing, House of Tayo, and Haute Baso – they deem it as a good thing that is not only beneficial for the Rwandan fashion scene to thrive but for the citizens to shift their mindset from conceptualizing fashion as a commodity to viewing ‘Made in Rwanda’ fashion as a form of identity with sustainable value.
It may sound all great and dandy but there is loads of work and joint collaborative efforts to be made by the government, and existing local brands. There is a lot of streamlining and policy making to be done to achieve a well-structured and independent industry. To name a few such as rebooting the manufacturing and textile industries, ready supply of raw materials, tax reliefs and financial support are some of the few key insights that will give Rwanda a shot to becoming an East African fashion powerhouse.