Arts and Culture // 10.15.2010

Who's that Lady? Naleli Rugege Bringing Fashion Alive

Article by Abena A-T

If you don’t know fashion designer Naleli (Nah-lay-di) Rugege, get to know her.  Her work has been featured in the Miss Rwanda Beauty Pageant, the first in the country after 14 years, or in the 2010 Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide where she designed outfits for over 300 children and one of the singers. She tells us that designing for the Commemoration was challenging, because of the limited time to manage production. But it was “a humbling experience to work on a project of such importance given the atmosphere it was done in.”  About the beauty pageant she explains “I understood they wanted to highlight Rwandan beauty and pride so I wanted my design and choice of fabric to mirror that.” She designed the contestants’ outfits based on the colors of the Rwandan flag- light blue, green and yellow. Naleli, also designed spicy outfits for the Tempo team for the night of the launch night.

The 23 year-old freelancer with a bubbly spirit was born in Lesotho, and lived in the Netherlands and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa before moving to Rwanda in November 2009. She attained a national diploma in Fashion Design at Durban University of Technology in South Africa where she honed her talents. She tells us that although she has always had a thing for designing clothing, she was inspired by her first black doll: “This instilled in me a sense of African pride which i try to bring into my African inspired designs.”

Naleli works hard to create garments that will satisfy both her and her clients. In each project her aim is simply to understand “what her client needs and finding the best way to deliver that service”. She stresses that time plays a vital role in everything and so she has learned to multitask on many different areas of her work.  She constantly has to adapt different working strategies. For instance, while working on the commemoration of the genocide, she learned to exercise a good working relationship within a team.

When describing her afro-chic style of design Naleli says “I love the combination of crisp cotton African print with the delicacy of other fabrics. My clients act as a canvas and my inspiration becomes the paint I clothe them in.And this designer’s creativity doesn’t stop at cotton and chiffon, she also dabbles in spoken word poetry. “As an artist I feel you don’t belong to one art form but many mediums of artistic expression. I have enjoyed writing poetry for as long as I have been passionate about fashion design.” She explains that poetry has inspired personal growth and allows her to explore her own terrain as an artist.  In fact, her ideal date should have a way with words himself. He must be “down to earth and charming” (Better brush up your poetry fellas!)

A young woman breaking into the fashion industry is sure to face challenges.  Naleli has faced her share and acknowledges her family for being a great source of support and strength, allowing her to keep focus. She credits her sister for being her muse in some of her most creative work.  To Tempo readers and other young dreamers she offers these insights: 1) Even dreams require discipline and focus; 2) “Always be grateful for small achievements, they are making way for big ones.”

Tempo asked Naleli what song she was put on earth to sing to which she responded:”A song that gives praise to all that’s glorious in life. A toast… to life in full colour.” She reveals that in the future, we can expect to see from her a fashion show, her very own clothing line, and some ‘outta sight’ accessories.  Now, to that, we’ll raise a glass. Cheers!

2 Responses to “Who's that Lady? Naleli Rugege Bringing Fashion Alive”

  1. Ritah says:

    “Always be grateful for small achievements, they are making way for big ones”…very true. I love the spirit behind this amazingly talented and beautiful designer. The sky is the limit.

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