By Thandiwe Kubere

MASERU – School of Crafts and Development Lesotho, with great hope of changing the dynamics of the fashion industry in Lesotho, gave spotlight to young and upcoming designers, granting them an opportunity to showcase their art, talent and creativity portraying Basotho culture to bag even better opportunities.

The fashion industry in Lesotho has seemingly not been given enough credit, support and recognition it deserves. Skilled and passionate designers have walked not so fruitful miles-in and out of schools, hoping for a better way of effectively pursuing and promoting their careers. However, they noticed that it becomes quite a hassle when they do not get the support anticipated, especially from their communities.

Therefore, to turn tables around, the novel school which had mouths divulging of the ravishing designs, pulled a show-stopper fashion show which was supported by Aranda Blankets and Finite Magazine. This gave designers a platform to portray their skills and fresh innovative designs- displaying the results of when talent, culture and elegance meet creativity.

To make the event a success, different stakeholders, experts who are doing well in the field and prominent people who would ensure that the vision sees light were engaged. This included the likes of Her Majesty Queen ‘Mamohato Bereng Seeiso who was left incredibly impressed, the ambassador of Aranda Blankets Palo Mokailane who swore to give designers recognition, Bathucada who holds great influence, as well as performances from Mme Puseletso Seema, Budaza, Creative Minds and SMS Studios to give more life to the event by keeping the crowd entertained and on their toes.

The event was themed “Marena a mahlabani” translated warrior kings or chiefs with regard to Basotho culture. It was decided upon with the essence of reminding Basotho their grassroots and how much their culture is worth celebrating, hence the designed outfits were made from material Basotho used way back in the day. Down memory lane, there were great warriors who came from royal families. This as well was to remind how important it is to value and honor one’s culture regardless of the day and age. Here they portrayed creative cultural garments with a touch of elegance. As per their different personalities and appearance, models graced the runway- flaunting the unique designs which kept the crowd raving.

The show gave designers an opportunity to gain sponsorship of the material they would use to make more of their garments from Aranda Blankets, some got internships from renowned fashion designers who are doing well in the field and are gaining global recognition including the likes of Surleque, while others were promised a trip to the Aranda company premises in South Africa to further their learning.

One of the school’s Lecturer, Moleboheng Khali, said they were really grateful to have receive such admiration because previously, a lot of people did not pay much attention to fashion, especially one which is made by Basotho. She declared seeing such a crowd fill the room with impression gives them hope that the fashion industry will take the leap it needs in the country.

As descriptive as the name sounds, School of Crafts and Development Lesotho was established after seeing a need and how capable young people fail to pursue their dream careers due to not having the financial muscle to attend institutions of higher learning.

Therefore, it was founded so that even the less privileged could get a chance of learning and attaining skills they need for a career in fashion and crafts.  She highlighted that having to lecture young people with such amazing talent and impeccable work ethic was a privilege and it warms her to see their potential and creativity given the appreciation it deserves. 

Khali declared she feels the fashion show reached the purpose it was intended for because they received a lot of positive reviews. The first purpose was that, as a school which equips and trains people to work well with their hands, and since fashion is already a competitive market, they felt obligated and wanted to put the designers out there so that they gain first-hand experience of the market so that they do not struggle a lot in penetrating through the already existing market. The only way to do so, was to give them publicity.

She pointed out another achieved goal was assisting their students in getting clients. This is because they got a call from of a CEO of one of the notorious banks in Lesotho seeking one of her students to design his outfit, which was a great surprise. She emphasized another great accomplishment from the show was securing internships so that students would get exposed to the industry and learn more about the material used as well as how to stand out because one cannot know something fully until they become really involved.

“It was my first time being part of such a big fashion show which kept conversations going even after the actual event. It came as quite a surprise because usually, fashion shows are not really recognized in Lesotho and people often think their only for fashion fanatics which is really not the case.  This time we decided to show people that it is not only for fashion geniuses by incorporating different people from different fields to bring awareness that this is for everyone. We tried to engage so many people to show that one does not have to be a fashion guru to attend fashion shows. The event was a huge success because everyone was enjoying and Her Majesty was so thrilled when she saw our designers’ garments which had such creativity and tailored with great precision”, she said.

The categories under which garments were made were the following: Kids range- which showcased kids mass market made by the July to December intake; Haute Couture range- worn for red carpet; awards or worn once for a particular special event, Avant garden range- which is the dramatic, theatrical or mysterious look; and last but not least, Upcycling range- outfits made of recycled fabric or material.

The essence of fashion is to show and support innovation, independence, individuality and creativity. Lesotho fashion designers insist on inclusivity, respect, and collaboration. Without designers, What would we wear?