Last Thursday, the Uganda National Museum hosted a one of a kind fashion show. The pieces were partly or fully made out bark cloth (lubugo) by José Mendo. At the event, fashion designers based here and abroad hatched a plan to make bark cloth one of the mainstream fabrics on and off the runway. The Bark 2 The Roots programme is a brain child of Josephine Kyomuhendo, a UK- based fashion designer who label José Hendo has been featured on fashion shows in Europe, the New York Fashion Week and recently Kampala Fashion Week. The project is a collaboration with Makerere University School of Fine Artist, fashion designers like Stella Atal,Eva Mynsberghe and Anne Musisi among others. The idea is to bring together researchers, makers, designers, education institutions and buyers (promoting production and export) among other stakeholders to promote the environmental friendly, sustainable and renewable material that bark cloth is. Some designers showcased how the material from the mutuba tree can be used as fabric for clothing and decorated with patterns or mixed with other textiles, while Mynsberghe showcased how she is using the material to make jewelry. José Hendo showed the potential of bark cloth and how it can be maneuvered during designing. Her haute couture avant-garde designs showcased on that day showed how the material can become a global trend. She explained that she is using explosion of colours plus silhouettes and patterns that that can be embraced by the young generation. That way, bark can move forward but keep its heritage.
The event partly put together by activist Winnie Sseruma also brought together fashion lovers of different generations and eco-sustainable designers. Bark cloth was the only form of fabric way back before textiles like cotton, nylon, and polyester among others pushed it out and left it for the coffin. This project could end the stigma attached to it and put it at the same level with the likes of leather, silk and other fabrics.