The African continent is rich with talent, and we get excited when Africans make a mark internationally. Thabo Makhetha is the woman responsible for remodelling the traditional Basotho blanket. This blanket is used by the Basotho people in their cold winter conditions and Thabo revolutionised it into a fashion phenomenon.
Born in Lesotho, Port Elizabeth based fashion designer showcased her first Basotho blanket design at the 2011 Durban July. Thabo was dubbed as the best dressed at this event. She got the idea to use the Basotho blanket when she wanted to do something proudly African for the ‘Royal’ theme. She knew that most people would come dressed in outfits that would represent the European culture, and she decided to stay true to her roots.
The Basotho blanket is now gaining popularity in the US retail market. US based retailer Anthropologie has now stocked this traditional blanket. Elle magazine editor for South Africa wore one of Thabo’s designs, a black and white Basotho cape to the Louis Vuitton Paris Fashion Week earlier this year. Thabo has inspired many other designers to start using this blanket to make great fashion.
The Basotho blanket is usually used as a gift at weddings and traditional events, and Thabo turned this printed wool blanket into a staple item. The men wear it as a cape and the women drape it either on their shoulders or clinch it around their waists. The Lesotho royal family are often seen wearing these blankets in public representing their culture, the red and black Seana Marena is a traditional royal blanket. The history of these blankets dates back to the 1800’s when a French missionary presented King Moshoeshoe I with a blanket.
Thabo who holds a National Diploma in Fashion Design is the head designer at her design and manufacturing studio in Port Elizabeth. Though her studio is based in PE, they supply to a couple of boutiques in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Thabo Makhetha has been featured in publications such as Elle Deco and Marie Clarie, and in 2013 she showcased her designs at the Design Indaba Expo. Thabo was also listed as one of the Rising Stars of Design in SA by House and Leisure magazine.
Her designs range from jackets to capes and dresses, in the printed traditional blanket fabric. Produced by South Africa-based Aranda Textile Mills (Pty) Ltd. which owns the exclusive rights to produce these Basotho blankets. Thabo has taken a traditional item and made it relevant to the young market, which preserves the culture of the Basotho people. We anticipate a greater demand for her designs abroad.
Keep making Africa proud girl.