The Invisible Thread between Kampala and Kasese

April 30, 2019  

The Paper Fig Foundation was born out of a desire to connect the fashion communities of New York with those of East Africa, to use fashion as a tool for empowerment. But as we stitch our way back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean, we realize that there are many regions within Africa that could use a little connecting. That's why our team invested in four designers from Kampala, Uganda's capital. We brought them down to Kasese for three full days of Master Classes and fashion events, and the Paper Fig Skills Training School and the Paper Fig Alumni Association were blown away. 

On the second day, in the cool shade of a tin roof, members of the Alumni Association gathered around Uganda Seed Project Winner Brian Sonko as he showed them techniques to make bags from reclaimed materials. Fiona Ngaiwe and Sonko had worked together for months to plan this three-day master class, and the energy of the 60+ members of the Alumni Association to be studying under the guidance of designers further along on their path was powerful. They shoed them how they could use found materials like cement bags or bottle caps to create beautiful items that could be sold. 

Designers Ak Ibrahim and Biboy Blak helped Ngaiwe and Sonko or the first two days. On the third and final day, Ak and Blak unveiled their fashion cypher, which they have done in Kampala  but was arriving in Kasese for the first time. Children, many of whom are not in any organized school, gathered tightly around the dynamic young designers as they made a plan to create a collaborative art piece out of reclaimed materials. 

At the fashion show on the final day, members of the Alumni Association showed off their bags, and last semester's graduates walked down the runway to thunderous applause.

In a contest to select the winner from the bag-making master class, Paper Fig leaders decided that instead of choosing one winner, they would secure funding for the designers from Kampala to return. The crowd erupted in applause, and the Kampala designers beamed excitedly. The New York team can take a step back. Now, these designers from Kampala are connected to the team in Kasese. They can work towards empowerment, creativity, and inspiration without the New York team there, and that is true sustainability. The invisible thread just secured a brand new, and very strong, stitch between the capital city and the rural areas.