A trip to Kigali, Rwanda inspired fashion designers, Ines Cuatrecasas and Marc Oliver to create a fashion brand that celebrates the African woman. Mille Collines caters to women who love to travel and discover; who have an eye for fine details. For the creators behind the brand, it’s all about designing clothes that speak to who the “woman you are.”
We catch up with the brains behind Milles Collines to talk about their brand, the fashion scene in Rwanda and so much more. Read the fully story below.
Where did the name Mille Collines come from?
Mille Collines’ name is a French word that means “A Thousand Hills”. The brand was founded in Rwanda in 2009. Rwandans called their country “the land of a thousand hills”.
What kind of stories do you love to tell with your pieces?
We love to share the handmade process that takes place in the creation of every piece. In Africa they like to say that “to raise a child you need a village”. And that’s true: none who has achieved something has done it alone. Here, people are still more important than business. It is the greatness of humans in front of the company business. And that is something that in Europe is over. In Europe everything is so competitive that people have become dispensable. Not in Africa. Human connections remain key. The way you treat your people will make success possible. We love to share that.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
All things Africa. From the most ancients traditions (carving silver pieces in the Tuareg culture, hand beading masai techniques to the basket weaving of Rwandan women are some examples.) In other cases, inspiration has come from a vibrant neighbourhood in Kigali. The key is to find inspiration in something that speaks about Africa and transform that into contemporary handmade pieces.
What is the current fashion landscape in Rwanda?
In the past 5 years the fashion scene in Rwanda has grown tremendously. We still remember when we started Mille Collines and there were barely any brands in the market. Today you find many beautiful creatives making innovative products. Haut Baso, Inzuki Designs, The Village, Kaliza, Rwanda Clothing just to name a few.
What do you think the future of fashion is in Rwanda?
We believe Rwanda will have a significant place in the African fashion scene. The country is investing in sophisticating its manufacture and bringing talent from overseas to train their local labour force. They believe the textile industry should be a priority given the huge job opportunities it creates.
How easy is it for Made in Africa brands to compete or gain recognition on a global scale?
A positive and competitive aspect of this is that there are still few brands exporting from Africa and so the opportunities are high. There is an increasing demand for products coming from the continent and an attraction for the African aesthetic. The challenges come with high costs of transport and the handmade components limiting the quantities that can be delivered and making lead times longer for big clients. The key is to find the right market. One that is aligned with the philosophy of your brand and will be able to work around those aspects to make the business profitable for both parties.
What advice would you give to creators based in Rwanda and other parts of Africa?
Take very good care of your team and foster the human connections of all the teams you collaborate with.
Future plans for Mille Collines…
Our brand expanded to South Africa two years ago and we are currently growing our wholesale footprint as well as our online platform.
Where can people shop for your pieces?
In our flagship store in Nairobi, Kenya (Village Market mall), in our online store that ships worldwide www.millecollinesafrica.com and in a number of international stockist. You can email our team for further details on which ones firstname.lastname@example.org
Any additional info you would like to share with the readers…
We would love to hear from them 😊