Daring & Authentic Fashion: A Review of Moshions’ Imandwa Collection Spring/Summer 22
The wait is finally over. Moshions is back with a new collection. The high-end Rwandan clothing brand is doing what it does best –reviving culturally inspired design and setting the pace for the future of fashion. The first weekend of November saw the opening of its new Spring/Summer line – the Imandwa Collection. Designed by Creative Director & Founder, Moses Turahirwa, the Collection’s designs are a visual exploration of self-liberation, vulnerability, and authenticity.
In Turahirwa’s world, fashion is both an art form and a platform.
His creations have an androgynous appeal, challenging the very notion of gendered clothing and toxic masculinity. Channeling a different interpretation of the Kinyarwandan word Imandwa (which is typically understood as “spirits of dead heroes”), Turahirwa chose a modern understanding of the term - “a way to connect with our ancestors”- as the essence behind the six looks of this season.
Established in 2015, Moshions crafts a stunning balance between traditional and contemporary design. This combination of rich cultural heritage and modern tailoring fuels Moshions’ art. The brand is well known for its black and white palette, as well as, meticulous beading of imigongo designs on striking couture & ready-to-wear styles for men and women.
One can always count on Moshions to produce clothing with masterful attention to detail and they delivered yet again.
The Imandwa Collection is distinctively different from past designs but the sentiment remains the same - beautiful tailoring and luxurious details that translate seamlessly to ready-to-wear. Showcased during a three-day launch, the Imandwa Collection proved to be another opportunity for Moshions to flex its fashion mastery. Each day of the exhibition was very well thought out in order to allow diverse groups of people to experience the art while respecting Covid restrictions. Small guided group tours of the exhibition were provided each day by Turahirwa himself. Panel discussions and music enriched the entire experience. The setting for each installation was designed by none other than Rwanda’s award-winning creative genius, Cedric Mizero. Like the collection, the music that accompanied it hit all the right notes. The exhibition’s soundtrack was curated by Bill Ruzima, a dynamic musician, whose voice reached an electric crescendo as he danced. His eclectic energy vibrated off the walls of the Atelier Academy, an architectural dream space, where the fashion exhibition was held. Illume, the paramount Rwandan communications agency, was the media partner. Poivre Noir and Food & Stuff provided the event’s exquisite food & drink. Over the 3 days, several poignant presentations were also made, notably by Honorable Béata Habyarimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Trade & Industry; Jeanine Munyeshuli, a Rwandan economist; Judith Heard, Miss Elite Africa 2021; and Georgie Ndirangu, an international moderator.
Day 1 was more than the opening of a fashion exhibition. It was a reveal.
Turahirwa outdid himself with the Imandwa Collection, presenting looks that are both confident and vulnerable. In order for there to be integrity throughout the work, all of the looks were created with sustainability in mind. Every creation was hand-dyed with natural dyes on either silk twill or a wool & hemp mix.
These are investment pieces you will cherish, rewear, and pass down to future generations.
On the surface, most of the creations resembled classic suiting but a closer look exposed a distinct exploration in fluidity – structured jackets with a cape-like drape that expands in the breeze; textured trousers with embedded imigongo inspired design that hit all of the right angles; and well-tailored shorts with character.
This is a modern take on ancestral power dressing.
The aesthetics of the line centered on pale shades of blues and deep reds. The white shirts had splashes of color and the blue shirts showcased a richness tucked under jackets. A definite highlight was the magnificent red jacket embellished with a beading design on the sleeves and the silhouette of the profile of a woman wearing ibyanganga, a traditional Rwandan headpiece originally worn by the queen. The wide-legged pants dipped in red or blue dye below the knees looked comfortable and chic. The knitwear offering consisted of a flattering blue and white sweater with dramatic pleats over the shoulder, accented with a design of two faces wearing the traditional Rwandan hairstyle, amasunzu. Other highlights included a distinctive floor-length jacket dress that would rival the garment of any priest, and a leather bag & shoe combo which I predict will be bestsellers this season.
My favorite look of the collection was the cropped jacket with raised details on the arms, paired with a skirt with an asymmetrical sweeping drape. The drape is a homage to Rwanda’s traditional dress, the mushanana. Designing a cascading layer of fabric flowing from the waistline of a pair of pants is one example of the collection’s efforts to dismantle gender clothing stereotypes. I believe that Turahirwa is also reminding us that in men wearing draped fabric is not new or trendy. From the Dalokpo worn by Grebo in Liberia to the Kenté cloth worn by the Ashanti & Ewe in Ghana to the bright-colored Shuka cloth worn by the Maasai in Kenya, men in many indigenous African cultures have worn cloth draped around their waists for centuries.
During the exhibition, the male models wearing masks stood confidently in their gender-fluid designs… on top of clay pots, surrounded by thatched grass and birds, posed on beans or bricks.
My favorite installation backdrop was an eye-catching circular structure made of actual red beans (typically eaten in the staple Rwandan meal of rice and beans). Throughout the exhibition, there were both moments of movement and stillness. The models even interacted with each other in silence, emoted feelings behind their masks before eventually removing them. When masks were removed slowly, the clothing further came to life. But it was the look in their models’ eyes that exposed a fire as if to say that without authenticity, we are nothing but figures hidden behind a mask.
For me, the Imandwa Collection is in the spirit of “Sankofa.”
Sankofa literally means to “go back and get it.” It is a symbol from the Akan people in Ghana represented by the image of a bird with feet facing forward and head turned backward, taking an egg from its back. It highlights the importance of allowing our past to guide us as we create the future.
Moshions is decidedly a brand completely aligned with the past, present & future. With the Imandwa Collection, Moses designed a fashion experience that is full of juxtaposition without contradiction:
- Traditional & contemporary.
- Structured & fluid.
- Simple & complex.
- Moving & still.
- Retrospective & forward-thinking.
It’s a study of contrasts. Moshions describes its work as “future heritage.” This brilliantly encompasses the endless possibilities of rooting fashion in the past while transforming it into future design.
For each day of the exhibition, I intentionally took the guided tour as an opportunity to hear perspectives directly from Turahirwa, the mastermind behind the creations. My favorite stop on the tour was an area that did not immediately present itself as a curated space. It had work tables, sewing machines, tools, and pieces of fabric. Turahirwa explained that he included this area in the exhibition to remind us of the process that went into creating the final looks. At the end of the first day, I felt inspired and armed with wish list from the Collection.
Day 2 of the Exhibition engaged us in discussions that amplified the inspiration behind the creations.
The energy from the night carried over into day 2’s event. Besides the guided tours, there was a stimulating panel moderated by Thebe Ikalafeng, Founder & Chairman of Brand Africa. Experts joined Moshions’ Creative Director for a conversation centered on fashion beyond borders, fluidity, and fashion education. Panelists were David Tlale, South African designer; Fredericka Booksworth, Executive Director of the Council of African Fashion Education; Coco Olakunle, Nigerian-Dutch Photographer; Jordan Anderson, Editor at Large of NSS Magazine. It was a celebration of fashion in a fundamental sense –authentic conversations around creativity transcending borders, maintaining confidence in our uniqueness, and strategies to elevate fashion. Ultimately, the panel helped me develop a better understanding of the role of the creative artist in carving out the parameters of their art.
Day 3 of the Exhibition was about community.
The last day was dedicated to Moshions’s supporters. The night was about inclusivity. It was a welcoming space for diverse groups of supporters of the brand. While Dj Bigfiston set the ambiance with amapiano, afrobeats, and deep house, there was a sense of belonging. This is fitting because Moshions is spearheading a culture. I was honored to join the panel moderated by Erica Mbanda, CEO of Mukati Na Butta, and other friends of Moshions (Chidozie Obasi, Contributing Editor at Vogue Italia; Hyguette Bitega, Champions Lead, External Relations at World Bank & Moshions Brand Ambassador; Amin Gafaranga, Founder of Atelier Academy; and Cedric Mizero, designer) on the last night to discuss sustainable fashion, African textiles, and toxic masculinity. Over the years, I have witnessed how the brand has grown in authenticity which is less of a testament of Moshions’ ability to stay “on brand” and more of a testament of Turahirwa’s ability to deepen his liberation.
And isn’t that what we all desire -opportunities to grow further into our most genuine selves, unapologetically?
The night concluded with joy. Dj Bigfiston turned up the music as we danced and congratulated the Moshions team and their collaborators for all of their hard work.
Learn more about Moshions and pre-order the Imandwa Collection at moshions.rw
Cover picture: South African photographer, Trevor Stuurman.