Having showcased at prestigious events such as the Vancouver Fashion Week in Canada, SA Fashion Week, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and several shows in Italy and the UK, it’s safe to say that Thabo Makhetha Designs is fierce when it comes to fashion!
Born in Maseru, Lesotho and currently based in Cape Town, founder and director Thabo Makhetha-Kwinana established her business in 2009. The brand is well known for its unique range of capes, jackets and coats made from the Basotho blanket known as the Kobo Ya Bohadi.
Her fashion design and manufacturing company’s first order came after Makhetha’s university final year collection had been awarded “Most Creative Range” and was featured in a local newspaper.
“Whilst I was waiting for a job, I started fulfilling orders and within a few months I got a large order to dress a choir that was touring overseas and that’s when I formally started my business,” Makhetha said.
Albeit she formed her business out of a necessity to keep busy and make a living whilst waiting for employment, Makhetha says that she knew she had the talent and the skill, but felt she was too young and inexperienced to become an entrepreneur.
“Once I started, the positive and encouraging response from people was amazing, Word of mouth contributed a lot to my early work and I received lots of emails from happy clients and stories of people turning heads in their signature Thabo Makhetha garments,” she said.
The very first blanket-inspired cape was developed in 2011 and in 2013, then the Kobo Ya Bohadi range was launched. Over the past 8 years, the brand has grown in leaps and Makhetha said that the goal is to find key local and international stockists in order to make the brand even more accessible.
“When people think European fashion, they think of the likes of Chanel. Asia has Issey Miyake and the USA has the Raulph Lauren’s. My vision is that when they think of Africa they think Thabo Makhetha,” she said.
Knowing the challenges African designers face (because African fashion is still thought of as “flea market” items, dashikis and print heavy) Maketha believes that the solution is having bold retailers who’ll invest in such brands and reap the rewards.
The second challenge is that creativity in fashion becomes a trend that everyone wants to imitate. In 2015 and again this year, French luxury brand Louis Vuitton imitated the Basotho blanket-inspired design and made a killing from it; even here in South Africa. Makhetha expressed that it is disappointing when a brand as well-known as LV appropriates their work and their culture without acknowledging anyone or partnering with local manufactures or even giving back in any tangible way.
“I can only deal with it by producing unique, high quality garments that are authentically African and produced in Africa. Items that consumers can wear with pride and invest in. Louis Vuitton was jumping on a trend, here today and gone tomorrow. At Thabo Makhetha we’re building a legacy,” she added.
The 29 year old creative further stated that on the other hand, Coco Chanel says: “Imitation is the ultimate form of flattery” and having Louis Vuitton imitate what she does is a reminder of just how significant her work is.
The significance and eccentricity of her garments have also caught the attention of major publications such as Elle Magazine, Marie Claire, Destiny, The New York Post and Wall Street Journal. In addition to this acclamation, Makhetha was awarded the “Impact Award for Design” and named “Top 40 under 40 Business Leaders” in 2014.
“This year I’m listed in the Mail and Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans and I will also be launching my Spring/Summer Collection at the Mandela Bay Fashion Week on 21 October 2017 where I’ll be opening the show,” Makhetha said.
For more info, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +27 72 347 8849. She is Thabo Makhetha on Facebook.