I HAVE this habit of taking some of my work to coffee shops with free wi-fi where I can have less rankling meetings than most offices provide an atmosphere for.
One of these coffee shops is Prunes Cafe, on Wampewo Avenue in Kololo, where the coffee is strong and Ugandan, and my favourite table is in a secluded place on the inside that limits the number of people who randomly walk up to say a quick hello that could last over ten minutes.
It’s a nice cafe that attracts expatriates and foreigners, as well as natives such as myself, and because of that it is the perfect location for sales of certain items. Over weekends they host a ‘Farmers Market’ in their yard at which fruits, vegetables and other local produce and wares are laid out and sold quite briskly to our mostly expatriate and muzungu (the two are not exactly the same) community.
But on the inside of the cafe is a small room that is rented out as a shop, and that has sat empty for many months as the previous occupant moved on. I have seen two people I know almost take it up as their design boutique outlet, and even thought of putting a desk in their myself and calling it an office, but the table I occupy already provides that at rents of coffee and water per sitting.
This week I dropped by to have a coffee and write about one Rose Nakitto, and during a loose phonecall found that the little shop had been taken up by ‘RICCI EVERYDAY’.
Ricci Everyday sells bags made of kitenge material, and recycled bottles wrapped tastefully in coloured barkcloth – all Ugandan made – but my special interest this week was in the bags. The two sizes of bags they have retail for close to Ushs200,000, and are no doubt good value for the money charged.
The bags are named after people we know:
There is the Akello Bag 4 Way (US$50), that can be used in four different ways; the Mini Akello (US$40), that can also be used in four different ways but is smaller; the Nawolovu Furoshiki (US$360!), which is “a mixture of Ugandan and Japanese culture using hand-painted Ugandan Batik, bark cloth, and design of Japanese traditional furoshiki”; and the Mirembe Clutch with Bark (US$103), which is just what it sounds like.
All the products, the brochures say, are hand-made in Uganda by trained single mothers at a studio right here in Uganda.
Which brings me back to Rose Nakitto.
I haven’t yet spoken to this lady properly, but I encountered her products over the weekend as I was driving through Kkungu, in Wakiso District. By the side of the road, walking through the dust, was a teenager carrying a number of impressive looking bags.
They caught my attention because they were colourful and appeared well-structured but very different from the usual laptop bags that we see in supermarkets and ordinary shops.
So I stopped to inspect them and found that they were made in Uganda! By Rose Nakitto.
The young man explained that Nakitto was his grandmother and lives in Mulago, where she makes the bags.
I snapped one up for Ushs35,000 – asking price, even though he was ready to haggle a little. The other bags went for Ushs20,000 and even lower.
The stitching of the bags was fine and the padding just what I expect from a laptop bag; plus, mine has a colourful kitenge design that I am not shy to use in most places I go to.
Rose Nakitto clearly has a good eye for design and has identified a niche that needs filling, and is using local materials blended with a few imported bits and pieces (like the zippers) while maintaining the look and feel of a regular laptop bag.
Now, all that is left is for her to find an outlet like Ricci Everyday to carry her pieces and increase the mark up she is making while allowing her grandson to continue with school so he eventually becomes Chief Design Officer or Global Marketing Manager of her bags.
Ricci Everyday, I saw from their marketing documentation, sells bags under the brand concept “Spoonful of African Color” and promises that every product is hand-made in their studio in Uganda, “inspired by Uganda” – just as Rose Nakitto’s products are.
“African fabric represents such attractiveness. We cannot stop feeling positive energy, passion and power coming up from each different fabric, probably coming from the people in this country,” says a Ricci Everyday brochure, which looks amusingly similar to the NOGAMU marketing materials I saw a while back.
Just like the NOGAMU materials and business cards, the Ricci Everyday ones have a link to a Japanese organisation, which has found these Ugandans so resourceful and promising that they have formed a partnership of sorts.
They are very correct about Ugandans and what we have – everywhere I go with my Rose Nakitto bag (unbranded) I get stopped and asked where they can find one similar, because of the unique colourful and energetic fabric that says “Uganda” and “Africa”.
I can’t send them to that little road in Kkungu, because her grandson is pretty mobile. Luckily, I have her number handy: it is 0777 460 854.