Ode to elegance: Meet the 'Afro-dandies'

Classy and elegant, Rugamba's label House of Tayo combines bold African patterns and textures with western accessories to produce wax-print bow ties, colorful pocket squares and infinite scarfs for "Afro-dandies" in Rwanda and beyond.

We sat down with sartorially chic Rugamba to chat all things dandy: how to get the look; African influences; style icons and who he'd most like to see don his designs.

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Hai Afrika Interview – Matthew Rugamba, Founder of House of Tayo

"I think I may have a slightly bigger passion for story-telling than fashion. I remember making my first trip to the tailors when I was about 8 years old. I went to have an outfit made for my family wedding. I found the whole process fascinating. After many trips to various tailors over the years I grew more and more in love with the process...."

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'Death Then, Life Now': Intimate images capture the new Rwanda

'Death Then, Life Now': Intimate Images Capture the New Rwanda A new exhibition opens Friday in London, showcasing insightful snapshots of daily life in today’s Rwanda as seen through the eyes of local photographers. Called “Rwanda in Photographs: Death Then, Life Now,” the show aims to “communicate the complexities of survival after mass violence,” organizers say, while helping international audiences to “understand the scale and scope of the country’s journey.” It is an honor to be part of Andrew Esiebo’s series, ‘Returnees’. Picture taken at, and with the collaboration of Illume Creative Studio

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Rugamba started a flourishing fashion house with Rwf200,000

The allure of staying and working in the United States of America is many a people’s dream, especially the youth. But for Matthew Rugamba, who went to college in the US, the promise of a better future lay back home. He told Business Times’ Peterson Tumwebaze why he chose to return home after college to start a fashion house in Kigali. 

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How Stumptown savvy helped launch a Rwandan fashion brand

Rugamba notes that in 2012, the year he started work on his line, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and Vivienne Westwood debuted Africa-inspired designs. “Some people complain that they’re bastardizing our culture, but I think this is the window African designers needed,” he says. “While the world’s paying attention, put your best foot forward.”

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Intelligent Design

 While the small classes allowed him to put up his hand, his accent made people look up from their laptops. If the subject of Africa arose, all heads turned toward him. Prior to Lewis & Clark, he’d always been surrounded by people from his country. In Oregon, he picked up a new role: Africa ambassador.

 

“People didn’t know much about the country I consider home, Rwanda—especially in terms of its everyday life,” he says. At one point, he considered claiming he was from Uganda instead of Rwanda due to its troubled history of genocide, but he reconsidered. “I had to stand up for where I’m from. I wanted to show people the amazing things coming out of Africa.”

This led Rugamba, always a dapper presence on campus, to a decision. He’d combine his eye for fashion with his desire to share the stories of Africa.

 

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Threads of Experience

 

“It’s an equally enlightening experience for me and for those I share my stories with. I have learned many things about myself that had never really been apparent to me before,” says Rugamba. “I became particularly keen on sharing my appreciation for my culture and history through pictures, dance, cuisine, and anecdotes. But then I realized I had not touched on the clothes.”

 

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Top Ten African Menswear Designers by Monde Mtsi

 

We like to think that you can’t really accessorize too much. With a blend of popular culture and heritage through fabrics, House of Tayo presents a collection of men’s accessories destined for longevity purely on quality and aesthetics. House of Tayo is the product of Rwandan creative Matthew Rugamba. The collection of well designed and produced add-ons is a fantastic way of adding small doses of fab to spice up your wardrobe.

So that’s our list of African Designers who specialize in menswear for 2012. Let’s work together to make sure next year’s list is difficult- not because there are no potential candidates, but because there are so many we have to whittle it down to the best of the best. Africa is a continent filled with opportunities, resources, imagination and life. Best we dress up for the occasion.

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