“Fasi Fasi!” which is Lugandan for ‘give way’, is called out by a middle-aged woman who zooms past with trays of food. Walking through the dense maze of alleys filled with noise, congested with people, and packed with anything, and everything, you could want to buy makes you want to caption the picture: “Welcome to Owino”.
Owino Market is the huge outdoor household market located in downtown Kampala (map below). The name originated from a certain Owiny from Northern Uganda who used to sell roasted cassava, maize and potatoes. The phrase, “Let me go down to Owiny’s place” was often heard and so the name became synonymous with the market. Today, Owino market is famous for its cheap bargains as well as both authentic and second-hand clothes and shoes.
Authentic, name brands clothes, shoes, and belts can be found in Owino from fashion names like, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger, Chanel, and Alexander McQueen. In this downtown market you can buy the designer clothes you can’t afford new. There is a catch, however, and that is they are all used. A pair of Christian Louboutin pumps that would go for $100 USD, or more, new cost only 30,000 UGX used in Owino and they are in fairly good condition.
There is another catch in all this. It is not all rosy and merry downtown in the market. You don’t just walk in and ‘boom’ see a deal and snap it up. Finding what suits you and what it is you have in mind is a hustle. You will have your hands pulled, be called someone’s aunt, uncle and brother, be shouted at from every direction, not to mention being bumped, shoved and squeezed through the narrow stall corridors.
“Survival of the fittest” is the name of the game. If you want to survive, find those bargains, and get cheap deals you have to dress the part. Get those jeans out of the closet and put on those canvas shoes and that t-shirt. You want to travel light when in Owino. Leave all your flashy jewellery at home; leave your iPhone 4 at home, Mister! You need to be precise in your search and not be indecisive.
Be careful as not all the traders in the market are genuine. Some are looking to make a quick buck and might even promise a refund if you find anything wrong with product later. This is definitely not the case as, if you can even find them again, they will claim they have never seen you before upon returning.
“The only price I pay for buying clothes in Owino is the hustle” says Steven, a student. Mariam, an accountant, feels differently saying, “The guys pulling ladies hands is annoying. These guys specifically make you not want to go there but the nice second hand clothes in Owino make the place worth a visit.”
Most boutiques in the rest of the city buy their clothes and shoes from Owino and sell them at a higher price than they are bought for downtown. So the next time you are about to fork out a small fortune buying that nice designer used dress in a boutique, think about paying Owino a visit and wheeling and dealing for it at a cheaper price.