Barry Waiswa Kibwika


Aspiring to make cultural wear better

What you need to know:

  • Upclose. Barry Waiswa Kibwika is a Ugandan fashion designer based in the US. He is the chief creative director at Sabaa, a fashion cultural brand that he invented. Isaac Ssejjombwe  gets to know more about him and his cultural wear.

What is Sabaa all about?
Sabaa represents an ancient kingdom in Sudan and in Arabia that Africans ruled. This kingdom united all East Africans in culture and resources. So, Sabaa was the ancient culture of East Africa. 
When did you roll out?
I started Sabaa in 2015.
Describe the Sabaa style?
The Sabaa style is the future of culture. The culture is inspired by our heritage, legacy, our forgotten past and ruling future. I feel like we need a unique cultural piece for our story in Uganda. 
Just wearing a blazer and kanzu is not enough to represent who we are. We need something elegant, stylish and noble that represents the Pearl of Africa plus the source of the Nile. 
What is elegant style and nobility to you?
It is a rich cultural look that represents heritage, class and sophistication. 
How different is this wear from those that are existing?
This cultural wear is different from the ones that exist today because it is inspired by our great African heritage, yet remains modern. My garments paint a picture of opulence and rich tradition.
What is the cost of these outfits?
Since they range from regular  to wedding and luxury style, the cost is from $80 (approximately Shs298,000) to $800(Shs3m).
What exactly do you do as a creative director?
I have complete creative control of the creative projects for my company. I am able to oversee and choose the direction of where I want to lead the new collection/ culture/ projects. 
Where did you learn designing from?
I learnt by watching many great creative directors of our time. I was able to study prints and patterns and graphic designs that really caught this interest of the public.
Which great directors of your time did you watch and learn from?
I watched creative directors such as Tom Ford, Ricardo Tisci but I am inspired by Kanye west. He is one of the greatest visionaries of our time. 
Who inspired you in this field?
African culture. Our great history and royalty that has been forgotten, but slowly returning it.
What challenges are you facing doing this?
Getting the cultural pieces to Uganda.
What are you doing about it?
I am currently designing and getting ready to launch the new suit in Uganda. I am making the necessary preparations and the right connections. 
My plan is to target the youth to help rebirth our culture. I feel like the kanzu still needs to be updated. 
And, this style I am creating what represents who we are and our future as Ugandan.
What is the first thing you do in the morning? 
I do meditation and mindfulness to start my day in the present.
What is the first thing you do when you get to work?
I check my orders.
Earliest childhood memory? 
Playing in Uganda with my brother. My brother and I played regular childhood games such as tag, among others. Memorable. 
When did you leave Uganda?
I left Uganda when I was four years old.
First job you did was…? 
Making pizza at a little corner pizza shop. 
How much were you earning?
About $10 (Shs37, 000) per hour.
What do you love about your current job?
I love that I am able to work for myself on my own terms. I create what I need and give back to the people.