In 2009, a wave of new fashion swept through Uganda when fashion designer, Gloria Wavamunno launched her own fashion label called Gloria Wavamunno. Recognising the difficulties Uganda faces in its under-resourced fashion industry, Gloria has fought these odds and has been running her label to be the change Uganda’s fashion industry needs.
Gloria was born in London, England and raised between the fast paced London and Kampala. As a young girl, Gloria Wavamunno was very shy and that drew her closer to her mother. It partly explains why she also developed a keen interest in fashion and design following in her mother’s footsteps.
“I always saw and merged colours from a fashion perspective following my passion and mother noticed it and rendered the necessary support,” says Gloria.
Her mother owns MOWA Fashions. This, in turn, partly justifies her evolved business mind. Her father is renowned Ugandan business mogul Gordon Wavamunno of Wava Group of companies. Gloria is the third of four children and as the middle child; she was pampered with all the love. Her introverted nature can be attributed to her being raised in a family where children played indoors as brothers and sisters.
As a result of her wealthy background, Wavamunno was privileged to attend the Kampala International School Uganda and later graduating with a degree in fashion, design and marketing business from a university in London, UK. Gloria Wavamunno learnt her trade in London and she studied and interned for British men’s designer Ozwald Boateng where she acquired impeccable skills that have guided her in the industry. She has participated in fashion weeks in New York, Paris and Johannesburg.
After working with various retail stores as a stylist and make-up artiste in the UK, she returned to Uganda in 2009 and held her first fashion show at home as part of her graduation party.
“Many people do graduation parties but I chose a fashion show for people to know that I was starting out to be a designer,” she says.
She contacted the head of African Fashion International Group that hosts African Fashion Week and gained recognition after showcasing on such a big platform.
After she graduated from Art school in 2008, she founded her label a year later in January 2009 and created her first collection, L.O.V.E. In the same year her label started, she showcased her third collection, A-FREAK-A at the AFI Africa Fashion Week 2010, which internationally increased her recognition as an upcoming artist. The brand has been featured in Elle SA, The German Africa Positive and Unleashed Magazine, among others.
It is not surprising that Gloria ended up in fashion. From an early age, Gloria Wavamunno received an education in textiles and tailoring by learning from her family’s garment construction factory. Studying fashion abroad, she came to see the craft of tailoring as a design practice for creative expression.
“I know I always wanted to be an artist. In what field was in time to be understood. I was fascinated by the process of creating garments and the textures of fabrics but on the other hand I adored painting and drawing things. That then led to sketching garments and I guess also having my mother’s side being tailors it did guide my decision.”
Clearly, her mother is a very strong influence in her life. Gloria says, my mother is a very strong human being and has been a good example of what a woman can and should be; a makes a good home, good wife and mother. I am what I am because of her.
After experiencing multiple fashion weeks, it ignited something in her that prompted her to translate the idea back home in Kampala. The idea was to have a platform in Uganda with a fashion show that translates into business. She had the first edition of Kampala Fashion Week in 2014. She also started Uganda Fashion Council to promote all aspects of art which come into fashion and as an organisation with people of vast knowledge in the fashion industry to move the industry further.
In her ready-to-wear womenswear line, Gloria draws from her experiences and environment to construct unique fashion items with a focus on quality fabric and tailoring. Her designs are significantly shaped by Uganda’s social, economic and climatic factors as well as her personal experiences and relationships.
These external influences have an impact on every element of her process from the fabric she chooses and the seasonality of her ranges to the intricate details in each design and the durability of her textiles. Gloria seamlessly blends contemporary fashion with traditional African elements. Before the world embraced so-called tribal prints, Gloria experimented with African ‘Kitenge’ fabric from various countries and designed the cloth into modern-cut designs.
Her vision is to fuse the diverse, eccentric and vibrant world of African cultures, textures, fabrics and print, to the adaption of timeless and inventive garment constructions. A signature style of authentic fabrics, sharp tailoring, sensual designs and individuality continue to show in her creations.
When she was younger, her fear was not being able to live up to her potential but she has since overcome it. Developing a brand in Uganda, where the fashion industry still has a long way to go and working in an environment that lacks fashion schools and related institutions which presents many challenges for budding entrepreneurs and aspiring designers, Gloria has gotten past these difficulties and built a renowned brand that will definitely stand the test of time.
For Gloria, fashion is not merely a trend but rather an integral part of her. Her brand remains a true reflection of her admiration and heart for individuality, sensuality, and culture. She is an advocate of conscious shopping and doesn’t believe that one should consume everything. We should consume things of quality so that it lasts and this quality is what she delivers with her pieces.
Gloria is not just a designer, but a truly gifted artist with a vision that goes beyond changing the industry in Uganda, but taking that change to Africa and the world at large.
© 2017, Ona Akinde. All rights reserved.