Monica Kansiime was clad in a brightly-coloured floral dress when we met for this interview. With her skin complexion, her designer dress gave her that graceful look.
I found her at her Ipigogo fashion house where she was carrying out final measurements on a client who had ordered a dress. Ipigogo means peacock in Zulu.
Although she was quite busy, the joyous 2007-2008 Miss Uganda gave me attention because I had come on appointment. Born to the late Kenneth and Hope Sanyu Kasyate of Rukungiri, Kansiime is the fourth born of five.
She attended Ann primary school, Kabowa, before joining Kako secondary school in Masaka for her O-level. She later completed her A-level at Bugema Adventist School in Gayaza.
The 29-year-old holds a bachelor of Industrial and Fine Art obtained from Makerere University in 2011. She is a qualified fashion designer who boasts of a great sense of art surrounding both her body and mind.
Kansiime designs and tailors different types of clothes. She makes gowns and changing dresses, party and African wear for both men and women. This work, she says, is her childhood passion and dream-come-true.
“Starting up Ipigogo house of fashion was while I was still at campus in 2009,” she says. “I started small in this very place with only a simple machine accompanied with a few materials.”
Irrespective of the occasional ups and downs in business, Kansiime says perseverance is essential to keeping moving.
“l kept persisting and dreaming that one day it will grow [bigger and bigger]. I would go study in the mornings and run my shop in the evenings,” she says.
Although juggling work and school was not easy, Kansiime says fashion and design complemented her education. So, she had to persist and do both. She remembers her first sewing machine being inefficient. However, she kept saving and over the years, she has acquired a number of them.
With knowledge but no experience, Kansiime wasn’t held down by the competition in the field; rather, confidence kept her on track since it was her career choice.
Kansiime is not selfish with her knowledge of fashion and design. In fact, she has since trained more fashion enthusiasts at “an affordable fee”.
“The fact that I have the talent, I always yearn to share with the passionate people out there,” she says.
Kansiime buys material from Kiyembe in Kampala. Sometimes, she travels to Dubai, Ghana and Nigeria. She says sewing depends on what the customer wants. In her absence, her workmates do the job to her customers’ satisfaction. Her house of fashion is located at the ground floor of Comrade guesthouse at Sir Apollo Kaggwa road.
When asked how she has managed the fashion industry, she says it’s just the fashion inside her and a creative mind that run the business. Because research is critical for the success of her business, Kansiime follows up new trends in fashion so that she can remain innovative enough and meet her clients’ demands.
She also has positive memories of the year when she was crowned Miss Uganda.
“It’s the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me,” smiling Kansiime says. “It is among the best in my life achievements. I was too blessed with that.”
She adds that her confident mind helped her stand out besides all the hard trials. While at university, Kansiime worked as a freelance model with various modeling agencies including Sylvia Owori, Santa and Latif, among others.
In 2006, she was among the top five in the Nokia Face of Africa contestants. Her client, Queen Caroline, says Kansiime is one fashion designer of a kind, who is “quick in her works and manages time”.
“I came on Wednesday to book my order and measurements were done on me, but she told me it will be ready by Saturday, which was amazing,” Caroline said. “I also introduced my own idea and she didn’t abandon it. Seeing it work out is my pleasure.”
Kansiime advises young people to believe in and discover themselves first before choosing any career. She adds that they shouldn’t be afraid of starting something, and should be patient and persistent in whatever they do.
For now, she plans to establish a fashion school to empower and equip the youths with the skills. Kansiime also wants to open up more branches of her fashion house. She has plans of having two children after getting married.