OLGA NGANZI SAMBA-PANZA, a renowned fashion designer in the Central African Republic, last weekend opened her fashion house ‘O’poma Designs’ in Kigali.
‘O’poma’ has been operating over the past 20 years and Nganzi, the fashion house founder, felt Rwanda would be her next market when she discovered that her fashion products meet Rwandans’ taste in designs.
“O’Poma has existed for years and I want to see it growing beyond the borders,” Nganzi told The New Times in an interview.
The name of her fashion house, O’Poma, is inspired by the names of the designer herself, her husband, their daughter and her mother.
Some of the designs on display at ‘O’Pama Designs.’
“The ‘O’ stands for me, Olga, and my husband Odilan. Poma is the name of my mother and my lastborn daughter. That’s how I came up with O’Poma,” she explained.
At ‘O’ Poma’, fashion enthusiasts are taken through to a variety of creations of African fabric for men, women and children from dresses, shirts worn at corporate events, tops in all sizes and jewellery.
To give it a Made in Rwanda touch, Nganzi hired a local tailor who is associated with locally-made fashion products for her to successfully own the local market and help her turn ‘O’Poma’ into a go-to fashion house in Kigali.
Rwanda may be Nganzi’s second country where she opened operations, after the Central African Republic, but her designs have been given a nod by her regular clients outside Africa as she now exports her products in the United States and different countries in Europe like France and Switzerland .
Nganzi describes the love that people continue to show her designs as “incredible” which also motivates her to improve and deliver the best she can to her customers.
“I won’t say my collections are the best but I am almost there. I am trying to do better designs as I continue to grow,” she said.
The idea to bring ‘O’Poma’ to Rwanda came about in 2019, when the designer presented her first project in Rwanda during the International Women’s Day on March 8, 2019 after a few months after training women tailors in Kimironko, her current residence.
After taking over the market in her home country, Nganzi took on a new challenge to introduce her designs to Rwanda. She opened operations in the country, which is home to a fashion industry that she admires and ready to discover and grow.
“The Rwandan fashion industry is doing well and I am here and proud to be part of the journey to which I look forward to contributing and exchanging experiences as African designers,” she said.
Some clothes in Kitenge fabric on display at O’Poma Designs.
The fashion house opens at a time when Rwanda is hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which has attracted over 5000 delegates from 54 country members of the Commonwealth.
Although she hails from a French-speaking country, the mother of three said it would be a privilege to welcome the delegates to her shop and enjoy the beast of African couture.
“I am Francophone but business has no borders. I would like to invite delegates to my fashion house and discover the best collections at my fashion house. English won’t be a barrier of communication at all because fashion can speak,” she said.
Every fabric being showcased at ‘O’Poma Designs’ is of African couture with ‘kitenge’ being the lead material.
“My creations are African fabrics because I am African and I love Africa. I use Kitenge because there is no need to import raw materials from Europe yet we have our very own ‘Kitenge’ with us,” she said.
Olga Nganzi Samba-Panza and her two daughters dressed in O’Poma Designs.
A model showcasing fashion creations designed by O’ Poma.
Singer Platini P (C) was among the fashion enthusiasts who attended the official opening of O’Poma Designs.