With a heritage rooted in culture integrated with modern design, Thabo Makhetha is making waves in the fashion world with her take on Basotho blanketing. We get to know her and her latest collection.

Acclaimed for her winter capes known as ‘Kobo’in Sesotho, Thabo Makhetha established her label in 2009, situating the brand as a bespoke womenswear label. After attending the Durban July in 2012 wearing one of her Kobo blanket coats, media interest in her brand grew intensely, labeling her as an upcoming designer to watch. In 2014 she was invited to show at Vancouver Fashion Week in Canada where she made her runway debut, being praised for her creativity and quality of the garments. Most recently she showed for the first time as an independent label at SA Fashion Week.

Here’s what she had to tell us about her collection and what life is like for her right now at the moment.

All images courtesy of Ivan Naude, Planet Ivan Photography

What is the story behind the collection you just showed at SAFW AW16?

Basically, I decided to have a look at Bale. Bale is the name used for [Basotho] girls that go for initiation. In Basotho culture it is not just men that go for initiation. That was the influence behind the colour palette as well. When they enter into initiation they are painted white and will wear straw or thatched belts and goatskins which is an off-white colour. For the label, it was the first time we got to show under our own name. For a business like ours, it’s a right of passage of sorts, just like the initiation. We are not a big label and there’s still a lot for us to learn in the industry so I’m hoping we will still be here for a couple more years. The collection is an interpretation of where I am as a designer.

Why the influence of red? Is there a significant meaning behind it?

The red is also drawn from the initiation ceremony. When the girls come out they are painted with red ochre from head to toe. Black, white and red are aesthetically appealing together but following with the inspiration, they paint themselves red once they become women.

What is a day in the life of Thabo Makhetha like?

On a working day, it’s basically waking up in the morning and getting to work on time. I hate traffic so if it means waking up an extra hour early just to avoid it, I will do that. Once I get to work I check emails and prepare all the work that needs to be done by everyone for the day. Usually around lunchtime I’ll go out for lunch with my husband or he will come to me. [Afterwards] I’ll go back to the office to finish up then head home. We have a husky, so in the afternoon we’ll play with her and take her for a walk and then catch up on Regular Show and that’s my day.

Where are we likely to find you having lunch?

During the week lunch is usually whatever gourmet sandwich I make for myself at home. If I go out, we’ll usually go to Stanley Street. It’s a street with a whole lot of restaurants here in P.E. (Port Elizabeth). I don’t like doing the same thing too often so we’ll try different ones. I like Angelo’s and Salt.

What are you reading currently?

Instagram. I’m not a big reader. With Instagram, if I see something interesting then I’ll google it, follow up on it and see if there are any articles on it. It could be places, a creation or design, or architecture. In terms of inspiration it could also just be music. Inspiration I draw from anywhere really. But in terms of reading I prefer a lot of pictures.

What’s next for you?

I’ve got this idea for a summer collection that I really, really want to push because we want to start producing our own fabrics. I want to produce a nice fabric for summer so I’m playing around with that idea. We are also relocating to Cape Town so that’s quite a big change as well. Sometimes with a move things can get quite hectic so sometimes you fall behind in preparing for fashion week or whatever the next collection is. So at the moment our focus is changing locations and really pushing our online store as well and then just taking things from there.

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