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FASHION and women go together like a horse and carriage.
But besides the outfits and shoes, accessories are an integral part of a woman's wardrobe. They are the bits that complete a well-groomed look.
Thembi Mabule of Till Thembi Innovations in Pretoria is an expert accessory and hat maker . Using materials such as straw, vintage lace, crocheted synthetic feathers and silk flowers, Mabule characterises her designs as "high-style chic with a little couture".
Her work is varied though she specialises in ladies hats, whether for the Durban July, funerals, church events, weddings or cocktail functions.
Originally from Sterkfontein in Limpopo, the 27-year-old creates hats using stunning colours and incredible trimmings. Her move into the world of hats began last year while she was working as a sales representative in a retail store.
Mabule, who studied retail management, says she always yearned to design hats.
"As a child, while other kids were making dresses for their dolls, I used to make hats for myself and my friends using boxes and potato nets.
Last year, I started making hats and a lot of people were impressed. I received many orders soon after I started," she says.
Encouraged by her early success, Mabule made samples and called on a few shops and fashion designers. And Till Thembi Innovations was born soon thereafter.
Mabule says she does not have any formal fashion training. She says she relies on her innate fashion and colour sense to come up with styles. She says she isn't influenced by any particular designer either.
"Because my look is unique, I have developed a following that expect something unique every time they place an order. Making a unique hat for each client is the most exciting part of my job. I make hats according to a client's specifications. We sit and plan the design and size. Each design is inspired by the client's personality and style," she says.
Mabule says going to an event with a completely unique hat that will make heads turn is many a lady's wish.
"The days of wearing a hat simply to put off your bad hair day are over.
"A good hat suggests mystery and class and it sparks curiosity and enhances femininity. A design that perfectly fits the head and is comfortable and durable as well as lovely to wear, is a hat that will stand the test of time.
"All this rings in my head while I create my hats," she says.
Mabule says that she dreams of dressing some of the most fashionable heads in South Africa.
"I dream of dressing the likes of Uyanda Mbuli, our first ladies and the young and trendy people of South Africa," Mabule says.
A successful hat designer needs:
l A creative and imaginative eye with good artistic skills;
l A good understanding of colours, textiles and patterns;
l An understanding of proportion and detail;
l To be skilled in working with his or her hands; and
l An interest in fashion, design and textiles.
What's hot in hats?
Iko Mash, a well-known stylist, says hats have become an "it" item since the death of Michael Jackson.
Mash says Janet Jackson made hats popular again after she wore one at her brother's memorial service.
He says fashion trends are leaning toward colours such as cobalt blue, orange, yellow, purple and green. But he adds that you can never go wrong with black, that it is always a winner.