The new Kigali City Tower (KCT) is slated to open in the next few weeks, and when it does, there will be some brand new stores in Kigali, as RNA reports Nike and Apple are warming up for the grand opening.
There will also be another Bourbon Café, a second Nakumatt Superstore, a Multiplex cinema, a sports bar, a fitness centre, a daycare service and several restaurants and nightclubs.
Among these new high-end stores will be the second Mille Collines Kigali-Barcelona designer clothing store. The first store, which opened in 2009, is tucked into a corner of the Union Trade Centre and sells trendy, quality women’s clothing with African flair.
The co-owner, Ms. Ines Cuatrecasas, describes the line as being quite sophisticated. “The clothing is trendy, yet casual, not catwalk. It’s classic and combinable and can be worn on many occasions – work, cocktail parties, weddings.”
Ms. Cuatrecasas and her partner Marc Oliver, who have their flagship store in Nairobi, are looking forward to the opening of their new store in KCT. “We want to be in Kigali. This is where we were born,” says Cuartecasas.
New women fashion with African flair
The idea for the store was born in 2008. Cuatrecasas, whose mother runs the NGO AfricaDigna, had travelled to Africa many times. In her travels, she came across Ms. Antoinette Mukakalisa, a Rwandan woman who has been involved with fashion and the clothing industry her whole life.
Mukakalisa convinced Cuartecasas that there was a huge potential to do fashion in Rwanda, but very few opportunities. There were many talented women who could sew and lots of natural material. So Mukakalisa assisted in putting together Cuartecasas and Oliver’s first collection in 2008.
“The first collection was called Mzee, we had travelled around Rwanda for inspiration and were inspired by an old man we saw, who mixed old vintage hats and suits with African fabric,” says Cuatrecasas.
After the first collection was created, Cuartecasas took it to her home in Barcelona, Spain where she was born and raised, to test the reaction there. She conducted market research with 20 women to try and figure out if the brand would be sustainable.
“The women liked the product when they didn’t know where it was from, but as soon as they heard the words cooperation, aid and NGO the brand fell and they were not willing to buy it,” explains Cuartecasas. “We then had to think about our approach. We didn’t want to just brand it as responsible consumerism, but we didn’t want to hide it either. Now we just really market the quality.”
Eventually Cuartecases was able to start selling her accessory line in Spain and it was a success. They then opened their Milles Collines Barcelona-Kigali stores in Kigali and Nairobi. Recently, they collaborated with the US brand Anthropologie and have also sold accessories to the US store Macy’s.
“We are expanding little by little and I think it’s working,” says Cuartescasas. “But its work, work, work. So much work goes into marketing, establishing values and a philosophy, and getting everything right. But it’s also really fun and we get to go out and meet a lot of people.”
Cuartecases says her new Milles Collines Kigali-Barcelona shop in the KCT will be all about quality in the store and the experience. “We want a different level of store than those usually found in Africa. The clothing and the service will be very high-quality.”
“Our main aim is to prove to Africans and the rest of the world that it is possible to do a quality product and not just an ethnic product. There is potential to produce a high, high-quality brand,” emphasizes Cuartecases.
The new Milles Collines Kigali-Barcelona store will be located on the ground floor of the KCT, near the Nakumatt.