Haute Baso is one of Rwanda’s top design brands and social enterprises. They are a boutique and high-skills training movement celebrating “Made in Rwanda”. Preserving traditional skills is a major focus. The company works with hundreds of traditional artists, weavers, bead workers, and more around Rwanda sourcing their initial designs, then accenting that work with modern elements. They have received global coverage for the quality of their designs and mission, which - at its core - is focused on elevating and educating women, leveraging e-commerce and taking great care of the artisans they train and from whom they source materials.
Come spend a day at Haute Baso’s shop with Linda enjoying coffee and conversation. As a co-founder, Linda will discuss Haute Baso’s journey from starting out of the back of a car, to building the company and creating social impact, to challenges of scaling the brand and program. She will detail her experience working with various retailers and partners around the world and how they are working on leveraging recent media and opportunities and obtaining funding to be able to meet growing demand and manage cash flows. This is an excellent opportunity to understand what it means to be a business owner focused on social good in Rwanda today.
"We teamed up because two heads are better than one, and we believe that to empower a woman is to empower her community."
Haute Baso’s two co-founders - Linda and Candi - met in late 2013 through their mutual experience in design and interest to support local communities in Rwanda. Both had backgrounds in international development and fashion and art. Linda was born in the US to Rwandan parents (who worked for the UN) and moved with her family to Uganda in the late 1990s. Linda felt passionately about her home country and moved to Rwanda once the war ended.
Candi was born and raised in Belgium. Her father is Rwandan and mother Belgium and Congolese. Feeling a draw to he home, she moved full time to Rwanda in 2009 to contribute to development of the country. Fashion and boutique have always been an interest. She started out drawing clothing designs as a teenager and producing her own clothing line for family and friends a few years later. It wasn’t until 2013 though that she really starting thinking about fashion as a business. With an education in international development, she worked for several years in the public health sector before deciding to go full time into design.
The two met in late 2013 after beginning to make a name for themselves in Kigali’s burgeoning fashion scene. Haute Baso was a merger of Haute Rwanda, a company that Linda had launched, and Candi’s company, Baso. After seeing the quality of Linda’s work at varioud exhibitons, Candi reached out to discuss a partnership. Haute Baso started small selling out of the back of their car and on social media. They built their brand by marketing and selling at various exhibitions and opened their design house once they had dialed in quality and were shifting to meet demand.
As Linda says “We really started with nothing. It was incredible learning how you can just start with an idea and grow from there. We've received a lot of support from people who want to see us succeed, and it would be great if more people could learn from this and do similar. Its a win when other people are inspired and believe that it is achievable.”
As a design house, Haute Baso works with over 160 artisans across Rwanda. Artists specialize in different skills each bringing their unique talents to the table. Haute Baso works with a women’s cooperative in western Rwanda specializing in beadwork, artists in the east skilled in Imigongo (a traditional art form unique to Rwanda made of sculpted and brightly painted cow dung) and various embroidery around Kigali. Haute Baso’s brand is a mix of different skill sets from various artisans, their designs are a combination of traditional meets modern. Haute Baso believes there is a global appeal for old meets new.
Biggest challenge is access to capital, access to raw material, supply chain, access to quality artisans. Production at first was biggest challenge Linda says. Received grant (through... Spring Accelerator / DIFID / Nike and USAID) last year to purchase inputs. History, challenges, how to work with artisans. Tour of shop/products. Story behind each product.