Oscar Kampala on building fashion empire, suiting celebrities

In 2023, he was recognized as the Best Young Entrepreneur at Zikomo Awards in Lusaka

In Summary
  • Oscar Kampala's fashion brand was born during his days in high school and since then, he has grown in leaps and bounds to earn global accolades.
  • Oscar has dressed several A-list stars from Africa and beyond.
Oscar Kampala and his team in Nairobi after winning big At Forty Under 40 Africa Awards on March 30, 2024
Oscar Kampala and his team in Nairobi after winning big At Forty Under 40 Africa Awards on March 30, 2024
Image: Handout

In the words of American writer Lewis Henry Lapham, if you wear a suit, you can easily talk to anybody.

That is what exactly happened to me when I bumped into ward-winning Fashion Designer Oscar Nyesiga, alias Oscar Kampala.

Nyesiga, the Founder and CEO of Oscar Kampala Collections, has conquered Africa as one of the most bankable designers of this generation.

He is regarded as the ‘King of Fashion’  thanks to his perceived originality, quality, and inclusivity in creating a fashion empire.

Oscar Kampala's fashion brand was born during his days in high school and since then, he has grown in leaps and bounds to earn global accolades.

Oscar has dressed several A-list stars from Africa and beyond.

Some of the celebrities that he has dressed are; Eddy Kenzo, Kizz Daniel, Moses Bliss, Jidenna, Oxlade, Beenie Man, DJ Neptune, Nasty C, and FireBoy DML, among others.

In March 2024, Oscar was named among the 100 Most Impactful People for the year 2023 by Ranks Africa.

In 2023, the fashion designer was recognized as the Best Young Entrepreneur at Zikomo Awards in Lusaka, Zambia. He also won the award for Best Fashion Brand in Africa.

At the Gala of the Forty Under 40 Africa Awards where he was nominated in the Fashion Category, and which he won, this writer had a sit down with Oscar Kampala to unpack his journey to the apex of fashion.

What’s Oscar Kampala all about?

Oscar Kampala is a brand that customizes suits for gents. We make official suits, wedding suits, and generally any type of design. We are a design house but mostly we major in men's suits.

So, why Oscar Kampala?

Oscar is my real name then Kampala is the brand. My real name is Oscar Nyesiga (which means trust). Kampala is a name I came up with back in High School in 2015. At that time was in form three.

Is this your very first time in Nairobi and how is the city treating you?

This is my very first time in Nairobi and I love it. The way people are treating me and my team is just awesome. The hospitality is top-notch.

It’s one trip I have been waiting for, for the longest time.

What makes you love Nairobi and Kenya as a whole?

I’m a very big fan of Swahili even though back in High School I never used to like those Swahili lessons. But now I love to listen to people speak the language.

I also love the business culture of Nairobi people, and the entertainment and I do follow a lot of Nairobi gist.

How do you find Nairobi compared to Kampala, Uganda?

There are not many differences only that a lot of people speak Swahili. Also back home we eat more organic stuff. There is not so much Ugali or meat. But the hospitality here is commendable. I love it here and I will come back a lot.

We have a lot of clients from Nairobi, Kisumu, and other places and this makes Kenya my second home.

Would you consider setting up a branch in Kenya?

God willing, Yes.

Why is Oscar Kampala in Nairobi?

I have always wanted to come to Nairobi but this time round I got more reasons to come. The Forty Under 40 Awards are being hosted by Kenya this time and I got nominated in the category of Fashion, so that is why I’m here. 

Are you anxious ahead of this big day?

“Not really. Being nominated is already a win for me. Starting a business as a young person and seeing it take you places, is already a blessing enough. It is a win and I’m already blessed enough if we win Glory be to God. (He won the award)

What do Awards mean to Oscar as an individual and a brand?

Awards are very good, but as a young person, you should not be working looking at Awards. Focus on your work and delivering quality services. Give your clients the best and let's build African brands and take them to the global stage. You should focus on the business more and it will take care of you and the awards will also come. But if you are winning businesswise that is what matters the most.

What does the global recognition of the Oscar brand mean to you?

It’s a blessing from God because where I come from it’s not something you see every day. We are happy that we are in this time and it’s our time as young people, young Africans, and we need to work together and support each other to take East Africa to the next level.

How important is collaboration in your line of work?

I’m a very big believer in collaboration and working together and that is why I have a team. You cannot do it alone. That’s impossible and I feel like one of the aspects that is missing in young people today is collaboration. You have to learn how to work with people as it makes life easy and also helps you dedicate your strength to where you are good at.

We still have a long way to go as young business African people but trust me we are doing perfectly fine.

What inspires Oscar Kampala?

I’m inspired by the Maasai culture here in Kenya. Also back home there is a lot of culture to how people dress.

What makes a good Suit?

For a good suit, you need a good designer and you have to know what works for you because even for me there are things I can’t wear because they don’t work for me. So, tip number one, always know what works for you.

What’s the one fashion item you can’t rock as Oscar Kampala?

I think heels. I see men wearing heels, but it cannot be Oscar. I can’t picture myself in them.

One fashion item you can’t leave the house without?

I think my small bag that holds my phones and credit cards. I love it so much because it compliments all my outfits. It’s black. 

You have a movement dubbed 1000 Men, what is it all about?

1000 men is a movement I started because I always wanted to see how many people in suits can look. And we said let’s do 300 men in suits and it was a success. Later we tried 1000 and it was epic. And we even had some Kenyans who came to Uganda for it.

What next for that movement?

Let’s see how we can bring it to Kenya before we decide to go to 3000 or 5000 men in suits.

Were all the 1000 men wearing Oscar Kampala?

Yes 100%. So, we have transformed the movement into a community for young entrepreneurs, in whatever you do, be it fashion, tech you name it.

We now use it as a social event for people to connect and share opportunities. The goal is to grow East Africa and Africa as a whole. So, I pray we also bring it to Kenya because you have beautiful streets.

What do you love about your job?

To be honest, this is not a job to me… this is part of me and I’m 24 hours into this and it’s my life. It is something I do effortlessly. It is art and art is my strength.

How do you come up with designs for the Suits you tailor?

Sometimes the client comes up with the idea and we execute. But we have a whole team of stylists and designers who get the job done, making sure the clients get what works for them.

What is the difference between a traditional and a modern designer?

It all boils down to having a team. Traditional tailors used to do everything by themselves hence the delays but now we have teams.

Like Oscar Kampala is a whole team, we have stylists, a production team, a media team, a customer service team, and a cutters team that makes sure all deadlines are met. Your clothes have to be out of the production house two days before the date of picking them up.

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

The fulfilment of knowing that you are doing what you are supposed to do. You are serving your purpose.

Do you strictly wear the Oscar Kampala brand?

I only do Oscar Kampala, the only thing we import is fabric. Everything we do is made in Uganda.

How much will it cost me for a suit from the Oscar Kampala Collection?

We are not very specific because we have a variety to choose from.

But the best thing to do is reach out to us via our social media pages, website, or WhatsApp with their inquiries and they will get feedback instantly.

 What makes you stand out among your competitors?

To be honest, we do our best but I feel the best people to answer are our clients because they probably know something special about us and that’s why they keep coming back.

Who are the African artists that you admire and look up to?

Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido even here there is Otile Brown, KRG just to mention a few.

What is your parting shot?

Fellow Kenyans, (laughs), we need to work together as Africans and there are many reasons for that. Also, do follow, Oscar Kampala and I believe there is something there for everyone.

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