Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Ugandan t-shirt brand devoted to '100% African-made'

By Monique Todd and Sandra Muhwezi for CNN
updated 11:50 AM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
<a href='http://www.definitionafrica.com/' target='_blank'>Definition Africa</a> is a t-shirt business based in Kampala, Uganda. The energy and vitality of Ugandan life is translated into clothing, incorporating local designs and everyday expressions. "Banange" is a saying used in Luganda and loosely means "oh my gosh." Definition Africa is a t-shirt business based in Kampala, Uganda. The energy and vitality of Ugandan life is translated into clothing, incorporating local designs and everyday expressions. "Banange" is a saying used in Luganda and loosely means "oh my gosh."
HIDE CAPTION
Ugandan Style
Unique lifestyle
Ugandan Style
Money troubles
Local collaboration
Fair pay
Brand DNA
Steady evolution
100% African
Future ambitions
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Definition Africa is a booming t-shirt retailer based in Kampala, Uganda
  • Ugandan life is key inspiration for the brand's bright and stylish designs
  • All products are manufactured locally, with the aim of supporting local and regional makers

Every week, African Start-Up follows entrepreneurs in various countries across the continent to see how they are working to make their business dreams become reality.

(CNN) -- You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't own a t-shirt; in fact, the ubiquitous garment is a mainstay in most wardrobes.

Nevertheless, Olga Mugyenyi and Nahida Beghani have injected new life into the plain white "tee" with Definition Africa, a t-shirt store based in Kampala, Uganda.

Bright prints, sharp slogans and youthful energy characterize Definition's alternative approach to fashion, where everyday Ugandan life inspires each new design.

"The concept of Definition came up in and around 2009," Beghani recalls.

Trendy t-shirts celebrate African life
Designer turns nature into 'bling'

"We felt like there weren't really any products or apparel in the market that really celebrated the local experience," she adds.

Following its successful launch on Facebook, Definition Africa eventually evolved into a bricks-and-mortar retailer, growing a loyal and enthusiastic customer base since the store's opening in January 2014.

Read: 6 weird African eateries

Despite the seemingly globalized nature of the fashion world, Definition's success is largely inspired by regional quirks and local collaborations rather than the latest throwaway trend.

"The t-shirts that we design are in theme with life in Uganda, things that we come across, statements, food, and people," says Mugyenyi.

"We also have a line that's called 'Signature Tees' where we invite people to submit their designs and if they go through the approval process then they get printed," she says.

Having recently received the Young Creative Entrepreneur Award from the British Council, Definition Africa has firmly cemented itself as one to watch.

The t-shirts that we design are in theme with life in Uganda
Olga Mugyenyi

However, the practicalities of producing and manufacturing locally-made clothing has proven to be just as difficult as they had anticipated.

"It would've been much easier to source our t-shirts in China, it would be much easier to get our stationery produced in Dubai, but we had to kind of stick to what we started with and that has been difficult," says Mugyenyi.

Currently, all of Definition's products are made and sourced in various African countries -- with blank t-shirts sent in from factories in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to be printed in-house. Ink, zips and embellishments, however, are mostly sourced from outside the continent, but the company aims to ensure that all components are 100% African-made in the future.

This commitment to homegrown design is part of a greater ambition to support local and regional industry, the entrepreneurs say, and so far, consumers have been taking note.

Mugyenyi adds: "One of the things that makes Definition what it is, is that the products are supposed to be entirely African in subject matter and as well as where the material comes from."

Read this: 6 weird African eateries

Read this: What does temptation taste like?

Read this: 12-tier cakes and VIP toilets

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:49 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
In north-west Cameroon, a cooperative of women beekeepers gently nurture hives in the rural outskirts of the town of Bamenda.
updated 7:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
East Africa's vibrant music scene has been steadily gaining exposure, and now entrepreneurs and investors are catching on.
updated 10:03 AM EST, Fri November 28, 2014
 A woman sells Liberian flags on the street near an Ebola isolation ward on August 15, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. People suspected of contracting the Ebola virus are being brought by health workers to the center, a closed primary school originally built by USAID, while larger facililities are being constructed to house the surging number of patients. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 1,000 people in four West African countries. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
As the economic impact of Ebola in Liberia deepens, workers and entrepreneurs are struggling to deal with the crisis.
updated 8:47 AM EST, Fri November 28, 2014
While public transport networks improve in many African cities, taxis remain a common mode of getting around. Is this three-wheeler about to change that?
updated 9:09 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Christine Mbabazi started designing clothes in her bedroom, now a store owner, she has bigger plans; to become household name.
updated 5:46 AM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
Dakar is the vibrant home of a growing community of surfers taking advantage of the warm weather, year-round waves and cheap flights.
updated 7:01 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Jeffrey Mulaudzi's tourism business is a learning experience on two wheels, giving visitors an opportunity to see the local lifestyle up close.
updated 9:48 AM EST, Mon November 3, 2014
War long made Goma a difficult place to live in, but one woman has set out to change that -- and she's using soft croissants and fresh coffee.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
When you think chocolate, you probably don't think Uganda. But if two local entrepreneurs have their way, you will soon...
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
If someone has shined your shoes in a South African airport, it's probably thanks to Lere Mgayiya.
updated 5:24 AM EDT, Mon September 8, 2014
Meet Kemi Kalikawe, the owner of Naledi Lifestyle Store which specializes in fashion and household items in Dar es Salaam.
updated 6:44 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
On the streets of the Ugandan capital of Kampala, scores of vulnerable children face uncertain futures.
updated 11:50 AM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
Translating local charm into eye-catching designs, Definition Africa is a booming t-shirt retailer staying true to its Ugandan roots.
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Janet Fredman Designs transforms modest materials such as seeds, wood and leather into high-end jewelry.
See the full coverage of CNN's African Start-Up -- the show that follows entrepreneurs across the continent making their dreams become reality.
ADVERTISEMENT