When and how did your love for fashion begin?
I have always loved beautiful clothes for as long as I can remember. My mother was extremely extra in her youth, she always wore costumes, and she hardly ever wore anything that was not designed specifically for her. I used to go with my mother to her consultations with tailors and witnessed the process of making something as simple as her nurse uniform. It was amazing to watch, her attention to detail and excitement thereafter was what caught me.
Did you study fashion?
I’ve studied fashion all my life. I know all the fashion editors in South Africa, where they started and where they are now, all the fashion designers, their greatest work and great flops! They don’t know me though. I self-taught everything I know about the business of clothes and it was easy because it’s something I love.
Please tell us about your fashion line, when and how did you start it?
Mobu by Melo was born in 2014, after I graduated from university back in the village with no job. It is during this time that I lost my mother. I spent a lot of time with father in his garden watching him mourn the loss of the love of his life. He taught me about Soil as God. That’s when I decided to take all my life lessons and skills and put them to use in the form of a tangible medium I can share with others but also teach what I know with. I decided to name this medium Mobu meaning “Soil” in Sesotho after hearing my father’s teachings.
Tell us more about Mobu by Melo.
Mobu is not only about clothes; it’s about changing our mindset as a youth. It’s a reminder of who we are as a people, where we come from, where we are, and where are going. I’ve realised that sometimes we get so obsessed with competing with our western counterparts that we forget our biggest power. There’s nothing wrong with competing, don’t get me wrong, but we are guaranteed to lose if we forget ourselves in the process.
What made you make clothes that are dedicated to the plus size woman?
I aim to challenge the current state of fashion in our country, particularly how plus size models are mostly viewed sexy when they are sexualised and objectified. I want to show that plus size clothing deserves the same amount of creative effort as any design in the industry. We need this to fight the abnormalisation of African bodies, to show future generations that there’s nothing wrong with us and that we will not conform to a westernised definition of us.
What sort of challenges do you face in your line of work and how do you overcome them?
I am a black young single female from a village without a trust fund, that’s a challenge on its own. But that’s the story I’m trying to tell with Mobu, that and other many stories that are part of our lives; the fact that I am very intentional, when I have decided that I’m not losing I won’t lose. That’s how I overcome the challenges that come with the work that I do.
How is the public receiving your brand?
I don’t know – I can’t say yet if people, especially my clients, are getting what I am trying to say with the clothes I make for them. I won’t lie though, I have been getting calls from people I looked up to and people my age that inspire me, asking for garments so maybe, just maybe. I am humbled by the response I have received so far but it’s just the beginning.
What advice would you give someone who’d like to follow your career path?
Know and love yourself. Study. Study. Study! Then execute. After executing don’t sleep. Continue studying.
Images by Kgomotso Neto
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