Palesa Mokubung knew her career direction from the get go. A creative path was aligned with her vision. “When I finished school, I didn’t worry about what I was going to do – I knew I was going to be in the arts. I went to Vaal Technical College (Now called Vaal University of Technology) to register, fashion design had the shortest queue so I joined that queue,” says Palesa.

Palesa MakubungSince those early days, Palesa has founded her famed fashion label Mantsho in 2004 with the aim of making women beautiful and pushing the African fashion agenda in a modern and contemporary way. “Mantsho means “a beautiful black woman” or “black is beautiful”. I wanted a name that spoke to my love and appreciation for women,” explains the designer.

With her impeccable balance between function and aesthetic, Palesa’s clothes exude a sense of power and femininity which leaves wearers feeling comfortable yet sophisticated. Following her success in fashion, Palesa has now expanded into designing homeware and accessories. “I’m an artist, I love beautiful things and interior was my first love but fashion was my calling,” the designer says.

H&M calling

Designers always dream of collaborating with a well-known brand, especially a billion-dollar fashion chain, and Palesa accomplished just that by being the first African designer to collaborate with Swedish franchise H&M.

When asked about how the capsule collection with H&M came about, the designer explains, “I was scouted by the H&M global team, contacted by their South African head-office and we then started the negotiations”. This deal makes it possible for designers across the African continent to dream bigger and be relentless in pursuing their goals.

A sophisticated collection

Palesa feels most inspired at night. “I’m a night owl and that’s when I get most of my ideas. Traveling is also inspiring for me,” she says.

Known for her bold and abstract prints, Palesa Mokubung’s eye for explosions of colour along with her voluminous, flowy silhouettes, the designer created a spectacular collection last season at SA Fashion Week.

“The latest collection was rich, sophisticated and flowing and was inspired by so many women I know. I’m a woman and a mother running and ruling an empire in my home, workspace and in society. I’m royalty and this collection is for women who see themselves in this light.”

What can we expect from her upcoming collection at SA Fashion Week on the 30th of April? The trailblazing designer says, “My upcoming collection will show styles that are fit for a queen, and of course made in solid colours with a touch of print to create variety in my clients’ wardrobe.”

Future fashion

In a world of instant gratification and fast fashion where the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, sustainability is of utmost importance and Mantsho is at the forefront of that concept in her business.

The Covid-19 pandemic has definitely made a huge impact on people personally and professionally. Creative industries, in particular, have suffered. Many businesses had to shut down due to lockdown. Palesa says that it’s time for entrepreneurs and designers to study their market now more than ever.

“Everybody has been affected by the pandemic and somehow people have different needs now. One needs to cater to your market and that has been challenging. The reality is that we are starting afresh and finding a new way of working,” says Palesa.

The next chapter

The art of collaboration is vital in the creative space. Now more than ever brands are engaging in ideas and merging, making them more powerful together. Palesa’s latest collaboration is with the prestigious gin brand, Inverroche along with Chef Wandile Mabaso, ceramicist Zizipho Poswa, and Inverroche founder, Lorna Scott.

Palesa Makubung“We’re all in the lifestyle space. There’s a synergy between fashion and fine dining and Inverroche is the epitome of fine dining. It is important for us to collaborate with brands that are on our level. Both brands value luxury, authenticity and sustainability so the collaboration felt very natural and organic,” said Palesa adding, “it’s always humbling to be the centre of a monumental event. It feels like I have been performing at an optimum level which is something I’m proud of,” she says.

Palesa’s on a winning streak and nothing seems to slow her down. What’s next for the dynamic designer? It’s simple. “To carry on building the Mantsho empire.”

Book tickets for Mantsho’s SAFW SS21 show on 30th April at 8:30PM here.
Don’t miss ASA’s upcoming coverage of Mantsho’s collection at SAFW!

Instagram: @palesamokubung

Words   |  Sibusiso Sbu Mkize   @sbuthestylegeek