Rio Paul: The Man Changing Fashion in Africa Forever

Meet Rio Paul

Though the day started out with heavy downpour which usually brings the city to a halt with unimaginable traffic jams, broken communication routes, and of dampening everyone's spirits, the people who came to meet Rio Paul at BUNI Innovation Hub were so vibrant, patient and understanding.

We had such a great time getting to know each other figuring out ways to help each others' ventures grow faster and better. When Rio Paul finally beat the traffic, it became the perfect high point to a brilliant event.

As I am Human, I am Art. I am Rio Paul.

It's impossible to ignore these words on Rio Paul's Website. Especially when you have scheduled a meeting with him the next day and all you know about him is stories on on-line media and his great work in Dar es Salaam, South Africa, New York and Paris... With over 8 years in Tanzania's fashion industry, Rio has worked as a stylist for some of the biggest brand names in the country and beyond, a fashion editor for various magazines, designed his own line of clothes, launched and hosted some of the most successful fashion events in Dar es Salaam, and recently launched a retail shoe line... It's easy to get overly excited about meeting him. Especially when you know he's done all this and he's only just turning 22!

At our first meeting with Rio, it was shocking just how true those words were. Rio's approach to all things life is very stylish, yet he manages to keep things simple, humble and meaningful. A few moments after we had met him, it was quite obvious that his Startup Grind event would be a truly amazing one. We were right.


Rio's Grind

Rio Paul (Rio Paul Company Ltd)


After growing up watching his parents dressing up impeccably every day they went to work, Rio Paul learnt to notice style and beauty with a keen eye. So much that his fashion career actually begun with him commenting on various fashion posts and pictures in social media.

At the time he had no idea but these comments were leaving an impression in some of the more established fashion personalities of that era. When he eventually decided to intern at a fashion house, they already had an idea of the possible brilliance of the fashion mind they were hiring.

Though, Rio approached Jokate Mwegelo after a church service and she agreed to him styling her launching his career as a fashion stylist, he caught his big break styling Big Brother Africa's Tatiana Duaro on her visit to Tanzania and became a household name in the local fashion scene.

The day he walked into Bang! Magazine and asked for a job, even after they knew about his work as a stylist, Rio had to audition at the reception by writing an article on the spot and coming up with a magazine spread - he did not even know what that was at the time. Nevertheless, he did his thing and got the job.

A year later he had been promoted to Junior fashion editor, a powerful position at this most influential fashion magazine, which he used to make a name not just for himself but also for other young fashion designers who initially could not get a platform to showcase their talent.

Nothing comes easy. Rio had to prove himself at every turn, first to his family, then to his friends and the public, and eventually to the fellow industry stakeholders. At the first Fashion Night Out Event that Rio Paul launched in Dar, and after M-Net Africa press - one of the largest on the continent - had come to cover the event, a communication discrepancy with a sponsoring agency resulted in models walking out literally minutes before they were to get on the runway!

Luckily Rio had made believers out of some beautiful style-savvy friends attending the show, so when most of the models did not return these friends stepped in to model for him and saved the day.


Lessons Learned

[caption id="attachment_78424" align="aligncenter" width="940"]Rio Paul brought models and showcased his clothes! Rio Paul brought models and showcased his clothes![/caption]


After being through lots of ups and downs, from dealing with fame as a teenager to the becoming the established stylist and fashion entrepreneur that he is today, Rio Paul had a lot to share about having the courage to face the hard times and dealing with both failure and success. As an artist, he stressed on the importance of "having a drive that comes from the soul". It is what gets you going even when things are difficult, as they often are when starting a company.

An important lesson we all learned from Rio Paul was the value of social capital. Rio Paul never forgot the people who helped get him to where he is, and he mentions most of them by name and clearly states just how pivotal they were in his career. Surrounding yourself with the people who could get you through the hard times and open up doors seems to be a skill horned in the many years spent in his industry.

The insights to be gained from this young man cannot be exhausted here. The hard work, passion and determination that Rio brings into his business and craft is inspiration to entrepreneurs from across all industries and fields.


[caption id="attachment_78425" align="aligncenter" width="940"]Rio Paul on Startup Grind Dar es Salaam Rio Paul on Startup Grind Dar es Salaam[/caption]


If you missed it, you can check out the video on the event page.