Thabo Makhetha-Kwinana

As the founder of a fashion brand whose luxury items possess a significant link to heritage and culture, Thabo Makhetha-Kwinana champions locally made clothes with a distinctly African aesthetic.

When Lesotho-born Thabo Makhetha-Kwinana’s mother bought her her first sewing machine in Grade 11, it sparked the start of a fashion journey from which the designer’s never looked back. ‘My mother’s one of my biggest supporters and pushed me out of the house to my first studio space in 2009. She believes that God doesn’t give you a talent from which you can’t make a living,’ she says.

Her mother was right. Two years after establishing Thabo Makhetha, a luxury womenswear brand acclaimed for its use of Basotho blankets in creating jackets, capes and coats, Makhetha-Kwinana made a coat for the 2011 Vodacom Durban July that changed her life.

‘The year’s theme was “Royalty” and, wanting to explore the glamour of African royalty, I imagined what a moSotho princess would wear,’ she recalls. She was named Best-Dressed Woman at the event, with photos of her outfit going viral on social media. A year later, she developed her first Kobo collection made from Basotho blankets and seven years later, that first Rose coat is still in production.

‘I hope to create a business rooted in African heritage and culture that’s as recognisable as the Chanels and Diors of the fashion world. A business with a legacy that will outgrow and outlive me,’ she says.

Neo Cape by Thabo Makhetha-Kwinana
Neo Cape by Thabo Makhetha-Kwinana

What’s inspiring you at the moment?

I’m still buzzing from Black Panther and the themes of Afro-futurism and the embracing of culture that the movie explored. It’s given new confidence to creatives like myself who see the potential in telling our unique stories.

Which African fashion designer should everyone have their eye on?

Afrikanswiss, who makes denim more interesting with its unusual cuts, treatment of the fabric and embroidery.

What’s on your decor wish-list?

I’d love to get a Mvelo desk by Pinda Furniture. It shows how traditional African elements can be used in an everyday piece.

Mvelo Desk by Linda Furniture
Mvelo Desk by Linda Furniture

What colour can’t you get enough of?

It’s a toss-up between red and yellow, both of which work well with my skin tone.What’s your favourite material to work with? Basotho blankets, specifically those made of wool, which is a luxurious material that’s soft on the skin, warm and long-lasting. Each blanket has a storyor symbolism behind it that’s conveyed in its pattern.

What’s your dream holiday destination?

Japan. Ever since watching The Last Samurai, my fascination with ancient Japanese culture has grown.

two women walking in Japan Thabo makhetha-kwinana
Kyoto, Japan Image: Andre Benz / Unsplash

Which accessory should everyone have?

A neckpiece by Afrigarde. Its accessories double up as art pieces that you can hang in prominent spaces in your home. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Spending time with my 18-month-old son and hiking up Lion’s Head with my husband and our Siberian husky, Khaleesi – the most beautiful dog in Cape Town!

Ahluka neckpiece thabo makhetha-kwinana
Ahluka neckpiece by Afrogarde