Rafael steps up Uganda fashion place at Commonwealth Games

Rafael Kasule sews sports attire for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. PhotoS BY ISMAIL KEZAALA

The countdown to the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast in Australia is hours away, but the race to the fashion finish line is alive.

For the sports lovers, a must-see drama of the world’s greatest stage for fitness, stamina and glory will keep them glued to their TV sets yet for those seeking something leisurely; the world’s largest fashion show is set for April 4.
At the Commonwealth Games,the ritual of the parade of nations is a spectacle to behold, no fashion week can match its thrill. Clothing defines who people are and there is increasing pressure to present the most memorable uniform. The increased reliance on social media for approval has created a perfect opportunity to enhance participating countries’ national image in front of unprecedented global audiences.

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games are remembered for Rafael Kasule’s eye-catching design for Team Uganda. The bright red jackets with boldly striped lapels were extolled among the seven best outfits by Canada’s, the Globe & Mail. Team Uganda will once again be outfitted by the same designer of K-Rafael Couture. He is a self-confessed perfectionist from the land of couture and expert custom-made tailoring.

Modern and colourful
Staying true to Ugandan heritage, the casual modern and trendy look will flatter every athlete, no matter their body shape. Male athletes will wear a red slim fit kikoy replica shirt with black trousers. The shirts have been accessorised with golden buttons.
Female athletes will wear modernised in gold gomesi with a kikoy sash. The gomesi is made from a rare sandwich jersey, a soft, warm and stretchy fabric renowned for its excellent drape and ability to stretch making it ideal for close fitting.

“It is expensive but I was inspired by the athletes’ dream of going for gold,” Rafael says. The design tells stories about Uganda’s heritage and elegance which demonstrates the country’s richness. “We should be able to tell our story but times have changed. As designers we are always on the lookout for something fresh,” he explains.

Teamwork, hectic but rewarding
Also, three fashion savvy women that include Angela Waiswa, Julian Mwebaze and Brenda Nuwamanya complete the job. With the fabrics obtained locally and hand-sewn together.

Mwebaze, head sewer of the 133 attires, says the design was fulfilling because people have started appreciating originality.
“It is quite a story about Uganda’s designers that have for long been despised,” she says, adding that having the designs of Ugandans put on a world stage meant people could learn about their culture.

“I feel proud. There is anxiety though of how people will receive the attire especially on social media,” she notes.

On finishing touches
Waiswa, who put much of the finishing touches says it is such a good job which makes her happy. She explains. She hopes the audience at the parade and on TV will enjoy the show.

“It is great and I think they will enjoy themselves when Uganda is announced,” Waiswa says.
Rafael hopes having their work in the spotlight will encourage other young people to embrace fashion.

“We don’t do what we do for ourselves but to be able to interest the younger generation. Fashion can change the way people think about themselves and what they are capable of, but confidence is key.”

While medals may be of little talk to Uganda, the impact of Uganda’s fashion statement will continue to ripple. We hope it stays relevant until the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

What you ought to know about Rafael

Now 31, Rafael Kasule, the founder of K-Rafael Couture started out at 13 years and was inspired by his grandmother Princess Elizabeth Naalinya Nakabiri, a sister to Kabaka Edward Muteesa II, a prominent designer in her days and his mother Elizabeth Ntongo. He started out his career with his mother’s sewing machine passed on from his grandmother.

At 15, he sold rucksacks to peers at Mengo and Lubiri SS. During his Senior Six vacation, he showcased his very first collection alongside Santa Anzo of Arapapa.

He enrolled at the Evelyn College of Design in Nairobi attaining diploma with a British Technical Education Curriculum (BTEC) in 2009.
He first worked with designer Sylivia Owori before launching his own label.

Awards and work
Kasule’s unconventional concepts have seen him scoop designer of the year in 2015. His workmanship and attention to detail has seen him design Sheebah Karungi’s costumes as well as Navio, Sauti Sol, Iryn Namubiru, Lydia Jasmine, Naira Ali and Chosen Blood among other celebrities.