Last week saw 11 presidential aspirants storm Kyambogo University cricket grounds in style for nomination before the Electoral Commission, then leave as full candidates.
Away from all the political ‘higi-haga’, the fashion statement made by Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu aka Bobi Wine and his wife Barbie Itungo Kyagulanyi dominated social media for days.
Their outfits were not made by a celebrity designer as many speculated, but by little- known 23-year-old Alawi Sseguya, the proprietor of Khali Clothing, Kampala. Quick Talk caught up with him at his shop on Luwum street.
Alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
Man, Barbie’s outfit was dope! Who are you?
My name is Alawi Seguya, 23 years old, born and bred in Kamwokya. I was born to Mr Hussein Yiga, a butcher and the owner of Masaka Smart Butchery in Kamwokya, and Ms Nambalirwa Joweria, a matoke vendor in the same area.
I attended Kitante primary school and Kamwokya Islamic School for my Primary education, St Janan Luwum SS for my secondary education and then Makerere University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Development Studies.
Your parents must be so proud of you. How was life growing up in the ghetto?
Life was so good and fun. People there love and respect one another. I have no complaints about Kamwokya, even though I know some people have negative perceptions about the place, but Kamwokya is a place that gives hope to everyone; no matter your background, you can reach great heights in life. [True, recent developments prove so.]
From Development Studies, how did you end up in fashion?
I have always had a passion for fashion. You can go to school and get qualifications in a particular field even when you have a passion for something else. I never went to fashion school, but before joining university, I had friends in tailoring and design, where I would go and learn the skills.
When did you take up fashion professionally?
Five years ago, I decided to make fashion designing my career. I started with the help of friends already in the fashion business and by the grace of God I also started my workshop and right now I can say I see a bright future as a designer.
How did you come to be Bobi Wine and Barbie’s designer?
The whole story started with Lewis Rubongoya [the National Unity Platform secretary general]. He used to by-pass me in Kamwokya smartly dressed in suits and I approached him so he could give me a chance to make his suits.
Fortunately, he allowed me to make for him a suit and he was so impressed with my work and I went on to make more for him.
I think his friends including Bobi Wine were impressed with his suits; so, he connected me to Bobi Wine and Barbie. I met them and shared ideas on the kind of outfits they wanted.
Have you made other outfits for them apart from the ones we saw on November 3?
Yes, I am the one who has been making suits for Bobi Wine for some time now. Even most of the clothes they are going to be wearing during the campaigns are going to be made by me. [And to think he is only 23!]
The nomination day outfits; what is their story?
I think many people were expecting all-red attires because red is the official colour of their political party; so, I opted for different colours but with a touch of red.
For Bobi Wine, I chose a grey pinstriped double-breasted suit with a white shirt. I limited the red to only the tie and pocket square.
For Barbie, the whole look was her idea and I only had to [bring it to life] with a little addition of my knowledge. I made for her a white, short-sleeved jacket with a skirt of the same colour but with an inner red slit and red cap to match her husband’s red tie and pocket square.
How long did it take you to make them?
It only took me three days to finish them and they turned out the way I expected because everyone appreciated.
What was the cost of these outfits?
Haaaaaaaa….. I prefer not to disclose that. You know I have a policy of keeping the prices for my customers a secret between them and me, but they paid me handsomely and on time. I hope to continue making clothes for them.
OK, for say, Quick Talk, how much would you charge?
My price is negotiable and affordable. I do not want people to fear that because I now design celebrities, I am very expensive. Anyone can come and tell me the kind of design they want and we come up with a favourable price.
How is business now that people know you are the one who made those outfits?
[Excitedly] Alhamdulillah! (Praise be to God!). The business is booming. I am getting so many customers now; my phone is buzzing all the time with clients placing orders. [He is forced to cancel some calls so we can finish up the interview]. I am putting in much more effort now so that I can meet my customers’ expectations.
Do you make outfits for only NUP members?
Of course not. I am not a politician; so, I am open to working with anyone regardless their political affiliation. I am just a hardworking youth willing to serve anyone who comes to me with business, without discrimination.
Do you only make suits?
Not really, I also make casual outfits for both sexes, kitenge fabric and Nigerian wear. During this Covid-19 period, I have also added breathable masks to match one’s outfit, or custom-made for companies.
What is your take on Uganda’s fashion industry?
The fashion industry in Uganda is growing at a very high speed and is promising. Very many young people who are passionate and hardworking have joined it and are willing to take advice from old guns.
I have some young people who have approached me to start training them, which I am very willing to do because I was also helped in the same way.
Which local fashion designers do you look up to?
Some of the designers I look up to are Joe Malaika, my mentor Tony Ssekabembe and many others.
Is there anything else you do apart from fashion designing?
I am a sportsman. I am an athlete and was part of the Makerere University athletics team and I am a footballer – I even played and trained in the Proline FC academy under Mujib Kasule. I love jogging.
Is there a “hajjati” in this picture already?
[Laughs shyly]. Yeah, I am in a serious relationship with someone. We have not yet made it official but, God willing, we shall soon, and start a family.