“Beautiful, Sophisticated, African”: Thabo Makhetha
APiF: Please introduce your label/brand.
Thabo Makhetha: Thabo Makhetha is a women’s designer fashion brand specializing in quality formal, cocktail and evening wear. The company was established in 2009 and operates out of its design and manufacturing studio in Port Elizabeth.
We have been fortunate enough to be featured in a number of publications including Elle Deco and Marie Claire. In 2013 we where selected as one of the 40 Emerging creatives to showcase at the Design Indaba Expo and later that year House and Leisure magazine listed me as on of the Rising Stars of Design in South Africa.
Our belief is that when a client acquires a Thabo Makhetha Design, they are buying more than an outfit. It is an opportunity to stand out, to make a statement. To say, “I’m beautiful, I’m sophisticated…I’m African”.
APiF: What is your professional background?
Thabo: I did a National Diploma in Fashion Design. I am the head designer and owner of the company and I’ve managed various aspects of the business.
APiF: How does your cultural heritage influence your work?
Thabo: My heritage and culture is the very thing that makes my work what it is. Although I was born in Lesotho, I have lived in different provinces in South Africa and have been influenced by the large variety of cultures this country embodies.
I enjoy creating clothing that has some cultural history to it. We can’t deny where we come from and shouldn’t disregard it just because of where we are going. In the same way people have modernized – so can their culture and that’s what I am to show through my work: that culture still has a place in modern society.
APiF: How did you come-up with the idea to work with Basotho Blankets?
Thabo: The idea came to me back in 2011 when I had to make an outfit for myself for the Durban July. The theme that year was royalty and I know most people would automatically model their garments around Europeans like Marie Antoinette and the likes. So I decided to keep it home bound and create a Sotho Princess look.
The only problem I found when using the seshweshwe print – which is a very common fabric amongst Basotho – was that it no longer uniquely represents the Sotho people as other cultures have grown fond of the material. And so then I decided to cut up my blanket and see what I could come up with…and it worked out. I was awarded best dressed at the event.
APiF: How do you market your designs and how do you make them accessible to a global audience?
Thabo: Word of mouth and social media has been our biggest elements that draw clients to our direction. We are currently establishing better avenues to get our products to the global community but in the meantime, clients are able to order directly from our studio in Port Elizabeth. We do have a number of boutiques in Johannesburg and Cape Town were one can get hold of our products.
APiF: Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry?
Thabo: Know exactly what it is you getting yourself into, its a lot of work and takes a lot of dedications. Find your identity in this industry and stick to it, you can find different ways to market it but don’t lose what makes you YOU. And finally, if you have the passion and the heart for what you truly love doing and are good at it, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t succeed!