Are you that dude who loves to wear designer clothes, but cannot afford to dish out sh70,000 on a mere Nike T-shirt?
Are you that dude who loves to wear designer clothes, but cannot afford to dish out sh70,000 on a mere Nike T-shirt? Be alert and look out for Keem Fashions in Kazo. The proprietor Hakim Murungi will make you clothes that will make heads turn as you amble down Kampala Road.
Ugandans do not have to break the bank to be able to stand out from the crowd. The 25-year-old Murungiâ€™s designs are very affordable. The talented Ugandan has made shirts and stage costumes for high-fliers like playwright Charles Mulekwa and contemporary urban singers Napoleon and Bobi Wine, as well as a host of fashionable corporate executives.
The designer, who is based at his rented Kazo home, tells The New Vision his success story. Murungi did not realise his dream of becoming a professional designer. After his A-level at Progressive SSS in 1997, the muscular Murungi cowered as his dream ebbed away. His mother, who had stood by him for so many odd years, also followed his father to heaven. That left the youngster with no hope.
He used to cup his hollow cheeks his palms, wondering how he could cope in the cruel world. He realised that cursing the day he was brought on earth was not to pull him out of his predicament, and decided to utilise the fine art skills he had acquired at school.
â€œWe lived in Mbale and thatâ€™s where I started sign-writing,â€ he recalls. The year was 1999. As he went through his daily routine, he met a man called Swaib Kasumba, whom he admired for his sign-writing skills. His new-found friend was an artist involved in designing clothes. Kasumba rescued him from Mbale and he settled with him in Kampala.
â€œHe is good man. He taught me everything. I owe a lot to him,â€ says Murungi.
After one year at Kasumbaâ€™s workshop, Murungi decided to start his own business.
â€œI had nothing. It was difficult, but Allah has been on my side. I later on bought a manual sewing machine,â€ he says.
His workshop tucked away in Kazo near Bwaise, has since been modernised with five brand new Mitsubishi electric sewing machines.
â€œI am now training two other people,â€ he adds.
Murungiâ€™s costume-making art reached great heights last year as he was awarded a dream contract to design costumes for the Miss Nkumba contestants who you admired as they strutted their butts doing the catwalk.
He gets his materials from shops around town and at times he travels to Dubai.
â€œThese materials are very expensive. Thatâ€™s my biggest problem,â€ he admits. â€œI only make clothes which are placed on order. I tried our shops as an outlet, but some people were not honest.â€
You can as well order for a new jumper, track suit, jeans, a suit or a Mandela shirt at as low as sh40,000 (with a matching bowler). Mind you, it wonâ€™t be a uniform for all Kampalans.
Each client gets a design that fits him. The kids, teens and adults get a chance to decide clothes that will suit them.
â€œI think and create my own designs. I donâ€™t have to copy from magazines. The client in most cases makes his own choice,â€ he boasts.
His clothes have already found a ready market among the Nkuba Kyeyo returnees who travel back to the USA and the UK with the Ugandan-made designs.
â€œMy greatest achievement is the ability to sustain myself,â€ he says. He is very optimistic that one day he will go back to school and become a professional fashion designer.
â€œI would also love to start up a modern workshop and start competing with the likes of Nike and Fubu.â€
Born to the late Joyce and Hamis Murungi, the designer went through North Road Primary School, Mbale and Mbale SSS for his O-levels before joining Progressive for A-level. They were eight children but God has since recalled three of them. Murungi is the last born.
Henry Ssemugenyi, one of the trainees, says that his trainer is an inspiration to the locals in this dusty Kazo village: â€œPeople do not spend a lot of money on designer baseball caps anymore,â€ he observes.
A New Vision employee who bought a Mandela shirt from him says that the Murungiâ€™s products are unique and stand out from the rest: â€œSome of my friends think I bought it from abroad,â€ he says with a smile.
Designer clothes made in Kazo