In the summer of 2005, a fashion student from Spain, Inés Cuatrecasas, and her mother travelled to Rwanda. While exploring the country, they met a dressmaker named Antoinette, who inspired Cuatrecasas with her passion and determination to develop clothing and accessories of international quality. In 2008, Cuatrecasas and her best friend, Marc Oliver, returned to Rwanda to develop their first collection with Antoinette and two local tailors.
A year later, Mille Collines (French for ‘a thousand hills’) was born. Ever since Cuatrecasas and Oliver created Mille Collines, they have believed in putting Africa first – in the design of the products, the creation of the team and the distribution channels. Today, Kenya has become one of their biggest consumer markets and they have four stores in Nairobi alone. The brand has evolved from its original muted tones with ‘safari-fashion’ appeal to become a blend of African culture and global trends. Their 2014 collection, shown at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa, is a walk through one of the most emblematic neighbourhoods in Rwanda, Nyamijyosi.
INÉS CUATRECASAS, MILLE COLLINES Photo Gallery
Boxy silhouettes, hand-painted slogan sweaters, colourful street-art motifs, sporty fabrics and splashes of suede and metallics oer a modern yet distinctly made-in-Africa collection. For Cuatrecasas, ‘Moving away from African fabric was an important step… Fashion in Africa is evolving. It can’t just be fitted into that box. The consumer wants more.’ But meeting new demands doesn’t mean neglecting ethical responsibility behind the supply chain. Last November, the pair handed over their atelier in Kigali and today, their Rwandan team fully owns the workshop, which has become the best in the region. ‘Mille Collines designs for the woman who is not afraid of a world that is ever-changing, is brave and boldly expresses who she is: Africa lives in her,’ says Cuatrecasas.
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