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Top SA designer goes global big time

Palesa Mokubung, designer and founder of Mantsho label./Moeketsi Moticoe
Palesa Mokubung, designer and founder of Mantsho label./Moeketsi Moticoe

"I first noticed fashion when I had that crop-top jersey, the one that exposes your stomach," says Palesa Mokubung, fresh from bagging a scoop not only for women, but Africa.

The 38-year-old fashion designer's has made history as the first African designer in game-changing collaboration with Swedish retailer H&M.

In 1994 when SA had its first taste of political freedom, Mokubung was a 13-year-old coming-of-age and connecting with her sense of style.

"I noticed fashion in snippets. I liked the bell-bottom era. As I got older I noticed that I had a sense of style. I just focused on style more than fashion," she says.

"My style had a lot to do with my personality and what I thought was cool. What I felt comfortable in and thought was unique. What can I get that people don't have?"

Fast forward to 25 years later and Mokubung has become the country's most influential black female designer.

Her label Mantsho, noted for its eclectic prints and edgy silhouettes, was founded in 2004.

The collection will on August 19 hit stores nationwide as well as H&M's flagship outlets in the US, the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Mexico, Chile and Israel.

Mokubung admits that such a collaboration would have been impossible 10 years ago.

"They were so many lessons that needed to be learnt by the industry, major retailers and us designers," she says.

"People like H&M still needed to make the mistakes that they have made to realise that it's better for them to come in and ask us to tell our stories.

"I have pioneered by being true to myself whether it was popular or not in this industry that is ruthless. That's part of the reason that I'm here and H&M noticed me. I have been consistent in my storytelling and aesthetic.

"I think part of the reason that South Africa is so excited about this collaboration is that it's with a woman. H&M is making a statement that we are conscious. We value inclusivity, women empowerment and job creation."

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