Our story begins in 2014. Anthony was in Rwanda for work, staying at a bed and breakfast where Angelo worked as a bartender. Anthony was in search of a translator and asked Angelo how to find one. As a native speaker of 4 languages Angelo took the job himself, and the duo developed a friendship over the years that turned into a business partnership. Anthony is based in Boston, MA and Angelo in Kigali, Rwanda. Here's Angelo behind the bar where he and Anthony first met.
Angelo was born in Rwanda during the height of the 1994 genocide, and grew up among the poor in a country that was too busy repairing the damage to be able to provide for the needs of the younger generation and invest in their future. The resulting gaps in education, financial literacy, and jobs are major barriers preventing a lot of young people in Rwanda today - the so-called "lost generation" - from climbing out of poverty. As two young entrepreneurs, we believed job growth was central to the problem and something that we could influence, so this is where we began.
Our employees are uneducated, displaced, or otherwise disenfranchised women in their 20s and 30s who were previously living below the poverty line. Our goal is to be able to employ 20 people by 2020. We have a team of 5 tailors right now.
In addition to stable, ethical employment, our work at Angelo Igitego provides a sense of community and purpose for the people we employ. We make ties, cook meals, share stories, and learn new skills together, from language and sewing techniques to math and geometry. As employers, we're teaching our team how to budget and save and prepare for longer-term needs. We provide their health insurance and pay them salaried wages, something that is unheard of in the local economy and is fundamental to financial inclusion and upward mobility.
The cornerstone of our brand is the selective incorporation of kitenge fabric into garments. Kitenge is a waxed-cotton batik fabric that is indigenous to East Africa. Kitenge is complex and gorgeous textile; it can take months to complete a single print. To make it, templates made of wax are stamped onto the fabric, and then repeatedly dipped into different dyes to produce the intricate, multicolor patterns. The designs, symbols, shapes and colors on Kitenge fabrics are influenced by the many diverse regions of East Africa and beyond.
We're already seeing amazing changes in the lives of our tailors. This is only possible because of consumers like you who share our values and are willing to pay a premium for products that contribute to social good. Thank you for your support! We are excited to grow and do our part to help close the gap in living standards around the world.
Angelo, Anthony, Mariam, Carine, Sada, Beatha and Jimmy
“Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly." — Epictetus
Founders Anthony and Angelo, 2014