PARIS — Could Asantii become the first African fashion label to compete with the likes of Sandro, A.P.C. and Ba&sh?
Rwandan-born entrepreneur Maryse Mbonyumutwa believes the world is ready for what she bills as the first African global brand, as she prepares to launch the contemporary label, designed and produced in Africa, that she hopes will serve as an incubator for the local fashion industry.
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The chief executive officer of Pink Mango, a multinational group with 23 years of experience in garment manufacturing and the production of promotional items, Mbonyumutwa has worked extensively with factories in Asia, but was frustrated that the apparel industry wasn’t creating more jobs on the African continent.
Likewise, she was puzzled that such a huge territory had yet to produce a brand for a worldwide audience. “I’ve worked for so many brands from so many different countries — France, U.K., Germany, Americans, even the Japanese have Uniqlo — but I’ve never had in hand a technical pack for an African global brand,” she told WWD.
“It’s a continent of 1.2 billion people who don’t run around naked in Africa, so who dresses them? I thought there was a little bit of imbalance,” she said.
The executive, who fled the Rwandan genocide at 20 and now holds dual Belgian citizenship, is bringing her international expertise to the venture, and in 2019 teamed up with her historic Chinese partner to set up a factory in Rwanda that has created 4,300 jobs so far.
The facility produces outerwear for firms including G-III Apparel Group; Spanish retailer Tendam; France’s Damartex Group; and supermarket chains such as Tesco, Lidl and Aldi. It will serve as the springboard for the launch of Asantii, a womenswear brand that celebrates African heritage and craftsmanship.
“We definitely are not a