Why did you apply for Threads?
As an entrepreneur, I found that as much as I’m called upon to manage several areas of work, I’m not generally equipped enough to manage them effectively. The major drawcard for me is that the Threads program gives me access to experts who I wouldn’t be able to work with or even afford out of my own efforts. Through the program, I’d have access to business support that could help transform my business into a powerful and profitable fashion brand.
What has inspired you to start your brand/business?
After graduating I struggled to find work in the industry and to bid the time I started working on custom-made garments for individual clients. Through word of mouth, within months I needed assistance and bigger premises and that how the company formally started. Today my business is driven more out of purpose than anything else, the Thabo Makhetha brand’s vision is to use our work and unique African Luxury designs to replant an identity of self-worth in our consumers.
Tell us more about your brand
Thabo Makhetha is a luxury African brand rooted in heritage and culture, and established in 2009. The brand has a multi-faceted product line of women’s wear, men’swear, accessories and recently children’s wear. We are best known for our award-winning range of jackets, coats, and capes made from the original Basotho blanket and inspired by Basotho culture. The brand digital home and online store are www.thabomakhetha.com and our products are available locally in stores in Cape Town and Johannesburg as well as internationally in the United Kingdom and France.
What is the greatest challenge you faced so far as fashion entrepreneurs in South Africa?
The greatest challenge I’ve faced, as fashion entrepreneur with a distinct African or ethnic aesthetic to their work, is the struggle to find boutique stores or retailers to stock my brand. Although our work is unique and award-winning, South African retail has a strong western cultural influence on it and we tend to follow global trends and not set them. As a result, very few stores believe in the idea of a locally-produced luxury brand or are in a position to cater to it. Closely linked to this is the consignment model that many businesses use which places all of the risks on designers and makes it very difficult to run a profitable brand.
What is your favorite side of doing business in the fashion industry?
I love design process and the research that goes into the ranges I produce, but it really comes together when consumers react positively to my work. I get emails and messages from clients, fashion students and the general public expressing how much they love a particular item or range and I never get used to it and it’s definitely my favorite side of my work.
Tell me about an accomplishment you are the proudest of.
I’ve had several highlights in my career being 2017 Mail and Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans, my work being the subject of a BBC article and my Starburst Coat being nominated for Most Beautiful Object in South Africa, but above all I’m proudest of being the recipient of the 2014 Impact Award for Design from the Arts and Culture Trust of South Africa.
What trends do you currently see in the fashion industry, in SA and abroad?
Apart from the current nostalgia for the 80’s and 90’s trend that is sweeping music, fashion, and movies (hence the Disney movie remakes and Bruno Mars’ uber-successful 24k Magic album); I’d like to draw attention to the rise of African/ethnic inspired work. I think politically there’s a shift that’s drawing attention to issues of identity especially African/ethnicity and work of African inspiration is in the spotlight. Black Panther is a Marvel movie about a black superhero and it’s taking the world by storm. In fashion the Thabo Makhetha brand found itself in international news when Louis Vuitton took a leaf out of our concept and made Basotho inspired men’s shirts, giving rise to a backlash against cultural appropriation. So that’s definitely a trend to keep our eye on.