On Saturday the 4th of July, The Empire, a local fashion house, hosted their 2.0 Be The Model: Winter Fashion Show at The Cigar Lounge in Phakalane. The event featured 10 of the most popular local designers, each showcasing some of their talent with their own unique designs.
Our Sunday Standard reporter managed to get a hold of a few of the most popular designers that were featured in the show to ask them a few questions about their work and their inspirations, as well as their views on the growth of the fashion industry in Botswana.
Alice and Theresa Jonas, a pair of young and talented twins from the Alitess fashion house, were a crowd favourite that night. They are especially known locally for their ability to include traditional designs into their urban and edgy designs. The two are quite young and already prominent voices in the local fashion business. Their work is funky and stylish, and their ideas are a breath of fresh air for both cultural and international clothing.
“Currently, Alitess style is basically a blend between the Botswana [and] African styles, and the western, urban styles. This is done to appeal to the youth, [and] young ladies who are mostly exposed to the western style,” they explained in the interview. “Our current collection is predominantly leteisi, which is our cultural material, with a blend of organza and other types of lace.”
When asked about their views on the inclusion of African designers in the western fashion industry, they expressed their faith in the direction that African fashion is headed.
“Even though the west is far ahead in the fashion industry, we are convinced that African designers are very talented, and that qualifies them to easily penetrate the western fashion industry.”
Candida Tsheko, founder and head designer at the local fashion house DihDah, was also asked about her designs. She said that her elegant designs are heavily influenced by western fashion, and are often based on themes from the 1920s and 30s. She believes that fashion is an art, and cultural acceptance is not a reason to limit yourself in what you do, especially considering that traditional women’s attire was quite revealing, and more reserved clothing only came along with western influence.
She also articulated her views on African designers in the western fashion industry, stating that our own African fashion industry should be created and cultivated. She strongly feels that western fashion generally loves African print, and if we, as a continent, build our own platform for our own African designers, then we can truly flourish in the world of fashion without the need to depend on western fashion houses to be successful.
Gorata Morapedi, a designer at the local house of art Artcapella, also agrees that it is important for African designers to form their own voice in the world of fashion. She believes that it is possible to incorporate traditional principles in modern day fashion, and it is all just a matter of finding a balance between the two. The collection she presented at the show was very bold and was also a crowd pleaser. Each outfit was distinct from the next, and the originality in her remarkable designs made her collection stand out from the rest.
The versatility of fashion is what makes it a lifestyle that many people can relate to. It can be used as a platform to express yourself in many different ways. While designers use it as a means to express themselves and their love for clothes, other designers also use their platform to raise their voices on social issues that affect the youth today.
One designer, the talented Ipelo Leshogo, showcased ideas that were rather controversial and thought provoking. Her collection, which went by the name Skeen Couture, sparked much debate between the viewers, for they were very revealing, possibly making it the most talked about collection of the night. In her interview, she explains that she loves challenging societal boundaries and empowering women by emphasising the beauty in their naked bodies, which is why her main aesthetic is skin. She also highlighted the dangers of restricting your work as a designer, and even encourages other designers never to limit themselves based on the fear of not being socially accepted.
Fashion trends are constantly changing amongst the youth, and styles are always dying out and being reborn. Fashion is a universal language that people of different ages can understand anywhere and everywhere in the world, and it brings people of similar tastes and interests together. The love of fashion continues to grow across the globe every day, and many international designers are becoming bigger and bigger fashion icons around the globe. However, there actually are very few African designers that are frequent names in the international high fashion industry, despite the fact that the appropriation of African cultures in high fashion grows every day.
All of the designers featured in the show were exceptionally talented, and may have bright futures ahead of themselves in fashion. Many young designers today have found a way to express themselves creatively, and combine their entrepreneurial spirits with their fashionable innovations.