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Designer Thabo Makhetha making Basotho style fashionable

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September is Heritage month in South Africa, and on 24 September South Africans are encouraged to partake in different ways of celebrating our diverse cultures. At Nich we believe that your heritage is your inheritance and should be celebrated as a matter of course.

The mountain people of Lesotho are known to wear their heritage with pride. Kobo ea Basotho is a symbol of pride and kinship for Basotho. Historically the Blanket as a material, much like SeShweshwe, did not originate in Africa. But Basotho took a utilitarian product like the Blanket and innovated a way to adorn it as part and parcel of their culture.

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The Blanket is also a very important part of ceremonial occasions, from weddings to funerals. And Designer Thabo Makhetha has created a fresh new way of reinterpreting this material to make it accessible not only locally but also to the International markets.

We caught up with her recently before her debut at Vancouver Fashion Week.

 

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How did the Kobo ea Bohali (Seanamarena) as a range come about?

It all started in 2011 with the Durban July theme “Royalty”. I was looking for something that I could create for myself to honour the theme, so I started looking to African Royalty  and also was interested in the Alexandra McQueen outfit won by Beyoncé in the video “Who runs the world”. So I combined those two inspirations by repurposing the blanket material to create the look.

People loved the outfit and kept asking me to make it for them. It then became a proper collection.

Tell us about your journey as a designer?

I studied Fashion Design and went on to win most creative range at varsity. Started off with dress making and then got the opportunity to showcase at Bridal Fair 2010 with traditional bridal, cocktail and evening wear.

Was it deliberate to use traditional wear in your designs?
I always wondered why in South Africa we don’t incorporate elements of traditional wear in formal and evening attire. Take the standard of traditional wear to the next level?

What is your heritage?
I am South African, lived in Lesotho, Mafikeng, Joburg,
Basotho have embraced the blanket as their own. Historically Africans wore animal skin and there is a theory that life stock was destroyed and there was a shortage of cowhide. Then traders used to bring blankets to trade with the people and for Basotho it become an item of clothing. As people we adapt and we also adopt things as our own.

How do you see the role of design in reshaping the story of Africa
The challenge is that we wait for international brands to endorse our aesthetic before we believe our aesthetic is good enough. It’s a matter of working on our mindset and taking ownership of our story.

 

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About your Designs, Who is your style icon?
Designers: Alexandra McQueen and Basil Soda. For the Boardroom, I like Jessica Pearson, the character in Suits. I would like to create office wear which  includes African elements

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What is your design ritual
I usually have an idea in my head which I commit to memory, take piece of paper and start creating a story around it. I also search for colour inspiration as part of the process.

Who do you check with before letting the world see your work
My Inner cycle:

  1. My Husband for a male point of view
  2. My Assistant from a younger age group
  3. My Mom who is a business woman as well as
  4. my Sister whom I respect.

Which is your favourite design moment of this year
When Jackie Burger wore my bolero at Paris Fashion Week. That was a stamp of approval from a South African style Icon.
What’s a perfect weekend?
Leaving office on Friday at 17:00, and heading to the beach with my husband and our brown husky.

Favourite places to visit
CapeTown

What other City would you live in Africa

The island of Bora Bora in Mozambique. I could live there forever.

Best gift ever received
For my 21st Birthday my husband, then boyfriend bought me Orange All Stars to match his pair.

What’s next on your agenda?

I’m looking for lighter material to create a Summer range. Some bolero’s and Summer capes. Also working on my website.

Stockists:

Pieces in Rosebank, Johannesburg and I still make clothes to order.

 

Congratulations on Thabo’s recent Vancouver showcase. This is definitely a brand to watch!