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Ugandan stylists are thieves!

By Vision Reporter

Added 20th January 2012 03:04 PM

That Ugandan boutiques are selling to you fake clothes and items as genuine articles is not news. What is, however, hair rising is that reputable Ugandan designers are buying clothes from Europe, America and China and relabeling them as their artistic creations.

Ugandan stylists are thieves!

That Ugandan boutiques are selling to you fake clothes and items as genuine articles is not news. What is, however, hair rising is that reputable Ugandan designers are buying clothes from Europe, America and China and relabeling them as their artistic creations.


That Ugandan boutiques are selling to you fake clothes and items as genuine articles is not news. What is, however, hair rising is that reputable Ugandan designers are buying clothes from Europe, America and China and relabeling them as their artistic creations.

A famous female designer, with over eight years’ experience of fashion and design under her belt, is notorious for this. This designer locks a handful of her most loyal and trusted tailors in a warehouse from where they engage a notorious routine of plucking official tags off clothes and replacing them with tags bearing her name.

The clothes, bearing exorbitant price tags, are then transferred to her shops for sell. Maureen, a prominent Ugandan who once featured on reality TV and a student of fashion was employed by the designer after her return from India where she had been for a course in fashion and design. During one of her errands to the designer’s warehouse, Maureen says she was shocked to stumble on the designer’s top secret.

“I caught a glimpse of ladies in one room plucking off labels from dresses and other clothes and replacing them with that of the designer. I was in shock,” reveals Maureen

“On my return from India, I needed a reputable place to learn some tricks of the trade and this was the place I thought would give it to me, but what I witnessed blew me away,” she says. “I called some of my friends in the media. I thought they would follow up the story and not let such forgery get away unexposed,” Maureen says.

Widespread biwanis (Imitations)

However, local designers taking credit they don’t deserve is not the only fashion crime that is going unexposed; from perfumes, bags, shoes, jewelry, belts to clothes, designers,  owners of boutiques and cosmetics clinics are imitating just about anything fashionable or famously labelled. Gucci, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Victoria Secrets, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Valentino, Versace, the list is endless, are all being made in Uganda.

Factory damage factor

If the labels are not fake, they are acquired as factory damage. These are outfits with negligible damage or fault, which are not exported as original products of the company.

Somehow, boutiques and designers find their hands on them while on their travels and return with them as jackpots. This category of clothes is the designer’s or boutique owner’s gem, exchanged only for an arm and leg.

How Ugandans duplicate.

Duplication of labels is done in various phases. A boutique owner in Pioneer Mall said that it is carried out in four phases. “Duplication is inevitable because very few Ugandans, if any bother to establish what is genuine or falsified. Besides, very few can afford if we dealt in the originals. There is no point importing original stuff and then yawn the whole day scaring off customers with our high prices. We too have bills to pay,” he confesses.

Using an example of an original Gucci bag, which he says cost $2,000 (sh5.6m), he revealed that “the first counterfeiter\ trader buys one original Gucci bag which he either sends by DHL or personally travels with it to China. Upon reaching China, he makes sure the bag is duplicated at about 80% originality.

At 80% originality, when the duplicated ‘Gucci’ bag reaches Kampala, it will cost between sh400, 000-sh700, 000. It is however eerily close to the original, even Uganda’s famed fashionistas, hardly tell the difference. He confesses that most of these items with 80% originality are what you find at famed fashion houses like Sylvie’s Boutique, Wina Classic, and Select Garments among other high end houses.

He says that the quality chain denigrates further as the second class of traders turn up to buy an ‘original’ item from high end fashion houses before embarking on the trio to China once more. “When these items are also duplicated, they are 20% less in quality than the item picked from the high end fashion houses.

These items then trade between 120,000 to sh300, 000 and are common around Pioneer Mall, Kampala Road shops, Garden City shops and Shopping malls around hotels like Grand Imperial, Sheraton and Equatorial shopping mall,” he confesses.

The third and shameless category is common around mushrooming arcades of Kikuubo, Nabugabo and Nakivubo Mews. These people churn out more money as they have thousands of gullible shoppers. Theirs is palpable poor quality and they know it.

Their prices aren’t fixed but rather they sell depending on one’s gullibility. Their biggest clientele are the Southern Sudanese and Congo market, as they have the propensity to buy these fakes at the price of original products. These items cost anywhere between sh80,000-sh120,000.

The last category targets massive sale at a low cost, irrespective. The items are so cheap and affordable to the common man. These items are common with hawkers.They are so cheap and the hawkers sell depending on one’s haggling power.

Where it is done in Kampala

Pierre Moudjibou, a Congolese Fashion designer on Kampala Road confesses to the in-house job. He admits that popular fashion designers have three main premises where fashion designs can be manipulated to suit their desires.

One of these premises is located around Owino Market; it is known as ‘Miggeto’ loosely translated as a place of forgery. He admits that there is a flurry of activity and all the tailors there do is to repackage first-class second hand clothes and suits for the big buyers, usually the fashion houses. He admits that it is brisk business although no tailor can get readily admitted into the scam.

They operate under a code of top secrecy and even have laptops and fashion books in these squalid places just to keep abreast with latest fashion trends and labels. The second place, he mentions, is on Kampala Road near Apex dry cleaners, but behind the main building.

Like the Kiyembe lane tailors, these ones get fabrics; duplicate designer fashions. After they are done they hand the finished work to their clients who only attach the purchased famous logo designs.

This scam is a hit with some fashion houses. “There are some tailors of Congolese origin on Buganda Road, who disguise under sewing good Bitenge designs; yet in essence their biggest income comes from duplicating popular fashion designs for the unscrupulous rich businessmen and women in Kampala. It is unethical but sadly, it happens,” he said.

Can original survive?

Unless you are a multinational clothesline like Woolworths or Mr. Price, whose products are original and internationally reputable, it is hard to survive the business, confesses another fashion designer.

He recalls that one of the shops called In-Style on Colville Street, which used to sell original productsfolded after failing to match the shrewd and street smart people involved in the business.

Jimmy Walakira, a second hand dealer in Owino Market admits that the rich men are also buying original first class second hand items from them in bulk. These items that include, leather shoes, leather bags and belts are then taken to Nairobi for fresh tanning before they return as brand new.

A first class second hand Clarks shoes Owino Market is sold between sh80,000 to Sh150,000. On display at the fashion shops, you pay anywhere from sh250,000 and above. Did I hear you boast about that pair of shoes being original?

Adapted from The Kampala Sun

Ugandan stylists are thieves!

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