For the first few years in Uganda, I would wait until my trips to the US to stock up on clothes, as I thought there were no options in Uganda to get quality, affordable clothing that suited my fashion. I would buy a garment here and there from the market, but most of my wardrobe was brought back in suitcases from America.
This year, I've found a lot of pleasure in exploring the options in Uganda for buying and making clothes that I not only love, but allow me to exercise creativity while I stock my closet. I've also come to be more conscious of my responsibility as a consumer within the clothing industry and I want to be sure my fashion reflects my values as well as my sense of expression.
Ideally, I'd love to check all these boxes while buying clothes in Uganda: expression of creativity, affordability, pieces I love, and responsibly-sourced garments. Here are a few ways I've been able to do so:
1) Buy off the rack at a local designer's shop
I bought both of these shirts at OP Clothing's store at Prunes in Kololo, right off the rack. Although most of the stock are clothes made of the very bold kitenge fabric, they also have some great basics. These are both among my most comfortable and therefore most-worn shirts.
2) Choose your fabric, choose your design - use a tailor
I do my fair share of Pinterest browsing and, like so many other women, I have my style board that I wish mirrored my actual closet. Earlier this year, I ran across Lemlem, an awesome brand that makes beautiful clothes with textiles from Ethiopia. The only problem is...um...I can't afford anything on their website. But I went ahead and "pinned" a few things, then took the pictures and some fabric I found in Kampala to OP Clothing. Check out the results:
3) Let someone else do the work
Do yourself a favor and follow FashionCorps on Facebook. They scour the second-hard markets in Kampala and pick out all the goodies, then re-sell them and donate part of the profits to great charities. Did you catch that? This means you get to source your clothes ethically, support worthy charities, and find some great pieces. I attended their sale last Saturday and snatched up some goodies for my belly to grow into over the next several months. (I had to rush and write this blog post or else I soon wouldn't be able to fit into some of these featured clothes. I really had to suck it in for some of the pictures!)
4) Dive into the markets
Yes, Owino market might be a pain to get to and you will get grabbed and yelled at and you will have to bargain and search through lots of crappy options, BUT you really can find some gems in Kampala's markets! And CHEAP gems at that. I don't hesitate to buy a fixer-upper and take it to a tailor to alter or patch up for me (Or, in one case, buy a curtain and turn it into a kimono - see below!) Sometimes you just have to see the potential that others could never see! My suggestion: avoid Owino and head to Nakawa market. I always seem to find something good there and it is much less hectic. Here are a few of my finds, each for 2,000 shillings (less than $1):
Here's an outfit bought completely in Uganda - the leather shoes were bought for $4 on the side of the road, the jeans from Nakawa market, and the shirt from Fashioncorps.
How much do you want to go clothes hunting now?