Kasule: Turning passion into cash

Tuesday February 25 2020

Allan Raphael Kasule, the fashion designer

Allan Raphael Kasule, the fashion designer behind Krafael Couture, demonstrates what goes into his work in his work. PhotoS by EDGAR R. BATTE 

By Edgar R. Batte

He is a fashion designer dealing with customised designs as a costumier. Allan Raphael Kasule is also a fashion illustrator and self-taught animator. He does this under Krafael Couture, his enterprise. The decision to pursue fashion was a trade-off. He is an active sportsman too.
“I love sports. In primary and high school, I was a100-metres athlete and I rarely came second in a race. I played basketball and rugby through high school. Fashion and art were always my primary right from the time I was a child,” he recalls.

In the footsteps of grandmother
Kasule’s grandmother, princess Elizabeth Nakabiri, was a designer and with him besides her every day, she was glad to mentor him. One could say fashion and design are skills that were organically passed down to him.
Fortunately, her sewing machine was the very first he owned. In 2006, he made his first showcase at Omega Healing Centre, in Zzana, off Entebbe Road. It was a Valentine’s special dinner event headlined by renowned fashion designer Santa Anzo, of the Arapapa franchise name. He was the novice designer.
Artiste and playwright Alex Mukulu was the producer for the show and it was a dream come true for the youngster showcasing under the wings of Arapapa. Interestingly, he hadn’t had any formal education to do with fashion, so it was more of an experimental spiral which turned out right.

Springboard
The icing was getting media attention, with reviews in the leading daily newspapers. The recognition spurred him on to create and design more. It was a big-man move for him.
A lot of time went into preparing for the clothing showcase. It was intimidating. He knew with renowned designer Anzo exhibiting, he needed to take advantage of the chance.
“I approached the event organisers with my sample work and they were impressed. The highlight was my appearance in the papers the next day with a good review from the biggest fashion editor at that time, Keturah Kamugasa (RIP). I also managed to gunner orders from that showcase,” he narrates.
His family was supportive in providing logistics. It is little wonder that when Kasule was presented with the choice of joining university, he had made up his mind to join a design school which could only be accessed in Kenya.
“Kenyan schools are grounded in vocational expertise and indeed, it was the best destination at that moment,” he explains. He applied and was enrolled at Evelyn College of Design (BTEC certified) in Nairobi.
“My time in Nairobi was met with so many challenges which actually exposed me to various business opportunities such as starting a T-shirt line, fashion tutoring, crafts and many others in order to survive,” he further recollects.
The college also gave him a sense of direction. “After a good number of shows, without a sense of direction, I finally set and cemented my aesthetic in 2012 at the Afrikaans Fashion Awards.”
He assembled a number of pieces in leather and metals. The crowd requested a repeat of the showcase at the very event. Cindy who performed at the event, also bought a piece from that very collection.
It was a life changing night in the fashion designer’s career. The 2012 show was unique. It gave the audience a sense of a Parisian designer in town given the leather and metallic creativity on Kasule’s designs as was showcased on the catwalk.
It was an awards night and he was invited to showcase. “It is in my nature never to do mediocre presentation. I always want it to be memorable and inspirational. So for that particular night, it was a do or die preparation. I sourced for top notch materials and put up together an edgy, gothic collection,” he explains.
He sourced for materials from within the mainstream market. His production cost was in the range of Shs1.5m and Shs2m. He had started commercialising his fashion passion.
“It happens organically. With time, more people have been drawn to customising for their fashion needs. For a designer, it’s a matter of tapping into the enterprise. It is better being paid for your passion,” he adds.

Advice
To the budding fashion designs, he says, besides long days and nights of practice, interning with experts who possess the direction to which you want to take, is ideal.
To current trends, he points to West African styles. His wish list is tied into the changing world. “I would love to be active in the robotics advancements in fashion. Playing a role in 3D clothing printing using sustainable materials,” he adds.

Business model
His business majors in haute couture, costume and now advancing into fashion illustration and animation on an interactive basis across the various fashion works and brands.
Krafael Couture is a majorly a couture based brand with focus on costuming and avant-arde interactions as well as feeding into the made-to-measure, bespoke, retail designing business.
Its genesis dates back to 2013 dealing in rucksacks, which eventually grew into more diverse options.
“We have attained reputation both locally and internationally. Some of my work includes designing the Rio Olympics team whose attire made it to the top seven boldest uniforms at the 2016 sports competitions.”
He also designed the team that represented Uganda at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. It was named the smartest. The project earned him his ‘fattest’ pay cheque.
To keep up with trends, he is tapping into technology using computer aided design, garment simulation, and soon 3D CAD. His works with a team of three, and subcontracts on each project because, “it is cheaper to outsource than keep in-house as it harbours challenges of emotional and financial pressure.”

Lessons

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Money. He has made some losses too. “They are all detrimental. I have learnt is to always have a contingency plan and the ability to say no and mean it. I always have accountability for all expenses and incomes and keep my expenditures as reasonable as possible,” he explains.
His works are unique given the use of rare fabrics and the way he uses and applies them in designing his work. Plus, his brand is not limited in material resources through additional use of silhouettes and fabrication.
His satisfaction is earning from his passion. “If you choose to, an acute business ideology comes into play. And for this case, you are required to separate business from mere passion. For one to be successful in the fashion business in Uganda, they may require one to get an education in the various slots in the fashion industry, could be tailoring, illustration, marketing and so on,” he advises.
You don’t need stress too much. “Have fun doing what you love. Collaborate with other fashion designers. Never be consumed with fame , it only leads to more unnecessary expenditures and debt all in the name of keeping up face.”

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