After honing his craft with some major fashion brands in Europe, designer Bobby Kolade decided to return to his native Uganda to launch his own brand there. What he found was a local fashion industry devastated due to imports of cheap, secondhand clothing from abroad. In the 1970s, Uganda was producing 84,000 tons of cotton yearly and processing 85% of it for local consumption. Today, only 5% of Ugandan cotton is consumed by its own people, with the rest being exported in its raw form. Responding to this crisis in his local fashion industry has been at the center of Kolade’s work and research since he returned home. Between 2018 and 2021, he frequented major trade points like markets and boutiques, textile mills and even worked for two different cotton processing companies. The data that he compiled — alongside his research partner, Nikissi Serumaga — ultimately turned into a limited series podcast called Vintage or Violence. Released in 2021, the podcast brilliantly tells the story of Ugandan textile, the essential arm it has historically played in the nation’s progress, and the sinister implications that the second-hand hand clothing trade has on youth unemployment, education, national morale, and Ugandan society at large. Alongside this research, Kolade also inadvertently found himself at the helm of Aiduke, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Ugandan fashion and textile practitioners. He had joined the Uganda Fashion Council as one of three directors responsible for sourcing funding for local fashion projects. But after two years of struggling to create exposure for their projects, the other two directors quit within weeks of each other, leaving Bobby alone at the reins.
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