African fashion has always inspired foreign manufacturers with its vibrant colours and rich designs. But often the clothes being sold are not produced anywhere near Africa.
Thabo Makhetha wants to change that by making sure that consumers finally realise that high quality and highly fashionable clothes are being produced on African soil.
Makhetha is a fashion designer specialising in women’s wear produced through her eponymous company. Her work is locally made from natural fabrics and is praised for its quality and creativity. It’s available at the Thabo Makhetha Collective, a Cape Town store that stocks premium goods made on the continent.
She’s best known for her range of warm winter capes inspired by and made from traditional Basotho blankets, sold under the label Kobo by Thabo Makhetha. The Kobo range has featured regularly in the local fashion magazines Elle, Marie Claire, Grazia and Women and Home, and has been covered in the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and on numerous international fashion blogs.
She established her company in 2009 as a graduate when she failed to secure an internship with one of the top European fashion houses. Instead, she launched her solo business specialising in bespoke women’s wear.
In 2012 she was named as the Best Dressed Female at the prestigious Durban July horse racing and fashion event. The event’s theme was royalty, and her Basotho blanket coat caught the attention of socialites, celebrities and fashion editors.
That led her to showcase a collection called Kobo Ea Bohali (Blankets of Prestige) at the 2013 Design Indaba in Cape Town.
In 2014 she made her runway debut at Vancouver Fashion Week in Canada, where she was praised for her quality and creativity. In the same year the Arts and Culture Trust of South Africa honoured her with the 2014 Impact Award for Design.
Last year, her Classic Starburst Coat from her Kobo collection was nominated by Elle editor Emilie Gambade as the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa.
She has gone on to display her creations in fashion shows in Johannesburg, Maseru, London and Milan, and in 2016 she launched an exclusive collection in London through the online store Sapelle.
Her work is currently part of the Fashion of Southern Africa exhibition at Kent University, Ohio, USA.
— Lesley Stones