My name is Jean Vainqueur. Actually scratch that people hardly pronounce it right, call me Munezero, that’s my fashion brand name anyway. Oh yeah, with my young age I do own a fashion house. Wait, you’re recording already, great!
I met Munezero Jean Vainqueur on a husky, sunny Friday afternoon, as the city bustled with weekend plans and events. I made my way to his room-based studio (where his story began), to capture the untold story of a young, self-taught fashion designer.
Born into a Catholic family of four siblings, at the age of 10, Munezero found it necessary to design his own suit that he would take to church every Sunday; fast forward a few years, and he helped a cousin design and sketch her wedding gown. “From there and then, I knew I wanted to be a designer because even as time went on, I’d choose clothes for everyone at home in the morning before they left for work and it slowly became an easy task”, explained Munezero.
“I started using the internet to teach myself more about the fashion industry.. I started learning what type of designer I wanted to be, what type of materials I’d use and there on, I decided to start small, by dressing my sister—of whom you will see all over my Instagram”.
In 2017, he received a scholarship for a 6-month program in Fashion Designing and Tailoring, at Rwanda Fashion Design Institute, where he learnt how to draw and sew.
“It excites me to design, sometimes I have to force myself to take a break from designing and looking for ideas. I enjoy designing because it comes easy to me, it’s not something I have to stress with”.
With his signature sign and brand identity being pearls and a classic old vintage touch, Munezero takes us through his creative and designing process: “When I have an idea, I first take it through my sister so that she guides me and we brain storm, I then buy the materials in town, take it to my tailor where she helps me with sewing all the raw edges”.
“I then take it to my small counsel- parents and cousins who either approve or give me more ideas and later take pictures of my sister and post them on my well curated Instagram page”.
The self-taught designer loves to collect different pieces from old clothes like buttons, ribbons and others, prefers to use unconventional materials and is mostly inspired by how the old people used to dress.
When asked to describe Munezero as a person, with a shy smirk, he says, “I have two parents, Rwigema Gonzague & Jeanne d’arc Mwitegereze, two older brothers and one younger sister; as a kid I’ve always been humble, a computer geek, and in my free time, I enjoy playing dress up with my sister, watching movies and sketching”.
Photos by Rurangwa M. Emmanuel
Munezero was born on 28th May and raised in Kigali Rwanda, studied at Saint Joseph Primary and then IFUK and Glory Secondary School, where later graduated at University of Kigali in Computer Science last year.
The 23-year-old designer dreams of growing his business beyond the scope of his room- based studio, to hosting his own clothing collection this year and his own fashion house to show-case his garments and designs.
He says he admires Moses Turahirwa, proprietor of Moshions because he introduced a new identify brand of Umwiterero and Imigongo, something most Rwandans lacked before. Outside Rwanda, Pierpaolo Piccioli of House Valentino from Italy is his role model.
Fun fact: Back in 2009, Munezero designed a bubble dress (a dress with a bubble at the hem) from a Mushanana.