Kampala, Uganda | AGNES E NANTABA | Raphael Allan Kasule is one of Uganda’s top fashion illustrators, pattern makers and designers. He has spread his wings and is flying the Ugandan flag high internationally through his K -Rafael Couture brand.
In April, he was contracted to make customised outfits for team Uganda at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth games in Australia. He designed red slim fit kikoyi replica shirt with black trousers for males and modernised gold gomesi with a gold sash for females fit for the spectacular ritual of the parade of nations. The design according to Kasule was meant to tell stories about Uganda’s rich heritage.
Kasule is also remembered for making team Uganda slay in the bright themed red jackets matched with striped lapels at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. For this particular one, the team was named among the seven best outfits by Canada’s the Globe & Mail.
He has also designed costumes for top musicians like Radio and Weasel, Sauti Sol, Sheebah Karungi, Iryn Namubiru, and Swahili Nation. He also does bridal wear on order.
“We keep on re-inventing ourselves working on fabrics that are not known to many and always have something new for every season and event,” he says.
His exquisite designs are a manifestation of the time he has spent in the industry – having started the career at only 13. During that time, Kasule says he would try out on his mother’s sewing machine that was passed down from his grandmother, princess Nnalinya Nakabiri; a sister to Kabaka Edward Muteesa II (1942 -1966), who herself was a prominent designer in her days.
But, he says, his turning point was when he was sent away from school for three weeks during his Senior Four at Mengo Senior School. To occupy himself, he Kasule made a denim rucksack and bag.
“Fellow students liked them, so I was forced to start making the same for them and orders grew from my school to neighboring schools,” says Kasule. “I would get old jeans, cut them out and make the bags selling between Shs3000 and Shs5000”.
Later during the Senior Six long holiday, Kasule showcased his first collection of a mix of kitenge and barkcloth alongside top designer Santa Anzo of Arapapa who offered a platform for the young ambitious designer.
To further grow his skills, Kasule enrolled at the Evelyn College of design in Nairobi and while there, he topped the class in which he was the only boy among girls. He also won the Redds African Fashion Design Award in Kenya, 2007.
Prior returning to Uganda after the three year course, Kasule applied and was selected to be an assistant at Sylvia Owori fashion house in Kampala. He worked at the top fashion house for a while, and then switched to Santa Anzo, and finally into launching his K-Rafael Couture brand in 2010.
“I was already more into costumes and things that look strange to the eyes,” Kasule says.
Kasule was born and raised in Kampala to Alex Ssebbowa (RIP) and Ntongo Elizabeth (RIP). He went to Kabojja Primary School, Mengo senior school, Bishops SSS, Lubiri high school and Evelyn College of design in Nairobi Kenya.
Uganda’s fashion industry according to him has grown to a level of international recognition and no struggle for clients’ trust.
“We have also moved away from sitting on a veranda to becoming a respected job and of course that comes with business dynamics,” he says.
His plans include starting a fashion school to supply a market he says is available but lacking expertise to produce unique designs and outfits.