A new breed of innovators whose designs challenge the status quo
A new generation of Batswana designers are tearing up the rule book and reinventing traditional designs to stamp a new aesthetic on the local fashion scene. These are the innovators who are constantly honing their craft and refining their style which is based on meaningfully and contemporary trends. This generation use their quirky and witty creations as a tool to tackle social issues as well as questioning the status quo and challenging long-held ideals of what is fashionable or what is acceptable.
In a recent interview Creative Director, Mboko Basiami of Glotto admits that they release concepts and not just clothes. Glotto is a root word from the term ‘Glottology’ which means the science of linguistics. Basiami said they found it very peculiar that the parent language to all existing languages in our region is part of the world’s unknown. She adds that her designs are influenced by this metaphor to reveal the underestimated creative talent and potential of African youth to the world.
Glotto does not only showcase trends in fashion but also incorporates beauty and cosmetics, fashion design and visual arts. This was evident in their Yucca Collection which consists of various ethnic, cropped halter tops, crocheted garments, and summer dresses. The Yucca Collection draws inspiration from the Hunter- gatherer culture of the San people. The collection portrays self-assurance, bravery and a close relationship with nature and the environment.
The colour schemes included in this collection are inspired greatly by the hues of Sub-Saharan sands and earthy tones of the Savannah veld. This minimalist collection is also influenced by the Yucca desert plant and the colour schemes found in the Okavango Delta, Makgadikgadi salt pans and the sand dunes of the Kgalagadi desert.
Glotto has successfully captured the attention of young Batswana girls and instilled a sense of pride for their heritage and skin colours. According to Basiami, Glotto wants to shift the widespread conception that designers only make grand evening gowns and show that even simple items of clothing can be acquired from a local designer.
In 2016, Glotto released the #sadgrls2k16 range of bodysuits to pay tribute to the tears that the African woman sheds in a society filled with gender based violence and inequality.
“Our beloved country was shaken by the infamous case of the sexual assault of an underage girl. Along with the country, Glotto vowed to never forget. Fast- foward to the bus rank assault which painfully reminded us that we have a long way to go in gender equality and respect for the African woman in giving her the freedom of expression she is entitled to,” Basiami explained.
Another local designer, Thuto Sekate owner of Seatbelts&Openspaces has made a name for herself with her distinctive designs donned by the likes of songstress Mpho Sebina and the fashion stylists Gatshfros. Seatbelts&Openspaces is an eco fashion brand that make accessories, clothing, bags and home decor with organic and recycled material.
“As a designer I have matured a lot over the years. I had to accept being different as a person first and then with my work. That enlightenment has put me in my own league. I am more self expressive than ever and unapologetic in striving to be authentic. I appreciate my wild imagination now and enjoy the adventure of peoples reactions to my work. Not everyone wants a cup of conservative,” Sekate said.
When it comes to her designs she says there is deep love from a select few Batswana that she really appreciates. Otherwise, most people in Botswana are yet to catch up. “But then again we have a generally slow reaction time with art in general. In other parts of the world people are taken aback by my designs. They see the vision and appreciate the boldness of our work, especially our accessories. They get really excited to own personal pieces but sadly our reliance on external validation and our misplaced faith in anything that isn’t our culture is our blindspot as a nation. I have accepted that harsh reality about being an artist of any sort in Botswana and it’s not even about the recognition; its about buying into new ideas, our own ideas,” she opined.
As an eco-fashion brand Seatbelts&Openspaces won the environment conservation award twice and they want to start a “plant a tree” campaign with every purchase made as one of the ways to encourage environmental conservation.
“I owe my followers a ‘We wear what we want collection’. But in the past I wasn’t as organised or focused with that intent. I am actually really excited about my latest collection. It is built around the ban of plastics in November,” she concluded.