From flashy malls to sustainable fashion, Kampala has one of the best shopping scenes in Africa. The Ugandan capital may not have the scale of Nairobi or Johannesburg, but it certainly packs a punch when it comes to homegrown fashion labels.
Kampala has several malls, notably the swish Acacia Mall in the Kololo neighborhood, which opened in 2014. It has three levels of shopping, including hip designers and great places to eat. Kisimenti, a nearby favorite among expats, is also home to some fashion gems. And there are also local markets galore. So whether you’re looking to save or splurge, it’s worth checking out some of the following places.
With over 500,000 traders, Owino Market – which wraps around Kampala’s Nakivubo Stadium – is by no means a serene place to shop. Also known as St Balikuddembe Market, it is a treasure trove for fashion lovers, and makes a great stop if you’re looking for bright East African fabric: there are stalls and stalls stuffed with designs you’ll never find anywhere else. Best of all, Owino houses a small army of tailors who can turn around designs within hours (although if you have more time on your hands, you can expect higher quality work). You can also pick up vintage clothing here.
Come prepared; bring a bottle of water if it’s a warm day, expect to lose your bearings more than once, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to bargain!
This hip Kampala clothing label was launched by designers Mette Islandi from Denmark and Louise Graymore from the UK. The aim was to provide fair trade jobs to tailors and designers and export funky fashion further afield. The label now employs 13 people and has put 42 kids in school. Aside from Kampala Fair’s serious sustainability credentials, it creates some of the most wearable African fashion in the region. The flagship store in Kampala is stocked to the rafters with lovely dresses, shirts, hoodies, skirts and tops, all beautifully-cut and fashioned from colorful prints.
Among the sexiest of its creations is the Sophie Dress, which has a scooped neck and is fitted to the knee. Every line of dresses is unique, so there’s little chance of ever running into someone wearing the same outfit. The bow dress is a fun take on a summer sundress, while the Hood Dress makes for an unusual winter option. We’re huge fans of Kampala Fair’s A-Fair tops, which come in beautiful African prints and look great with a nice pair of jeans. The kids’ range includes sundresses, tunics, trousers and cute skirts. A winner.50 Bukoto Street, Kampala +256 788 405 838
This eco-friendly brand creates gorgeous kitchen wares from recycled and sustainable Ugandan materials, included wine bottles, whisky bottles and other discarded glass. It operates as a social enterprise as well as a store, providing training and fair wage jobs to local people. Some are paid to collect wine and spirit bottles (which are not recyclable in Uganda), preventing them piling up in overflowing landfills. They are then heated, melted down using traditional methods and cut, sanded and polished. Wood and iron products are created by local artisans, and there’s also a range of mixed media items.
The glasses and goblets are by far the star of the show; each family of items is different. The range includes ‘classy clears’ and ‘frosty mugs’, but it’s the bottom of each glass that stands out, complete with original embellishments. They come in families of four or six, and look funky at any dinner party back home. You can also pick up hanging lamps made from full wine bottles and wooden base wine bottle candle holders.50 Bukoto Street, Kololo, Kampala, Uganda +256 773 864 711
Ugandan fashion label def.i.ni.tion wouldn’t look out of place for sale in Brooklyn or the Shoreditch area of London. But all of its products are conceived and made in Africa, from funky blue necklaces and oversized bracelets to tanks and tees emblazoned with Ugandan slogans. The brand says it ‘wants to redefine the market place and redefine the value of African’, by making products that support fair trade and boost the African clothing industry.
Head to the upper level of the Acacia Mall in Kampala to pay Definition a visit; the small store is stocked from floor to ceiling with upcycled t-shirts (men are better catered for than women here) splashed with slogans such as ‘Matatu Airways’, ‘Run KLA’ and ‘Kyaba Too Much’. The women’s range includes fitted t-shirts and tanks that say things like ‘Life is Short; Wear Miniskirts’ (a reference to Uganda’s attempt to ban the miniskirt), ‘Boda Boda’ (after the ubiquitous motorbike taxis that circulate throughout Uganda’ and ‘Potholes’. There’s also a fun range of baby bibs and onesies.1st Floor, Acacia Mall, Acacia Avenue Kampala, Uganda +256 790 914 924
If you love wax print and creative African fashion, it’s worth stopping by Bold, on the upper level of Kampala’s shiny new Acacia Mall. This large store stocks new collections and exclusive pieces by designers from Uganda and other parts of East Africa. Browse the racks of women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, and don’t miss the accessories section; there is a funky range of handbags, belts, jewelry, hats and other pieces. And if you’ve never heard of Jerrybags – a hip Ugandan brand with a serious social conscience that creates stylish water-carrying bags for villagers to take to wells – you can pick one up here.
Bold can be a little on the pricey side, but there are regular sales and mark-downs. When we were in town, the store stocked crisp and colorful men’s shirts by Ugandan designer K Rafael. Think bright color blocking with creative cuffs and collars made from wax print. We also love the 4 Africa accessories, which include scarves, beaded purses and clutch bags.Shop F1.07, 1st Floor, The Acacia Mall Kampala, Uganda +256 312 109 699