H&M deal signals world style fame
In being chosen to collaborate with H&M, Palesa Mokubung joins the ranks of global fashion legends from Karl Lagerfeld to Moschino and Alexa Wang.
The Sweden-based retailer will launch a collection by the designer of the Mantsho brand on August 15. It will comprise 14 garments and 10 accessories, and will be available in flagship stores in the US, the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Mexico, Chile and Israel, and online.
H&M has been doing collaborations since 2004, and it's the first time a designer from Africa is working with the fashion giant.
Mantsho means "black is beautiful" in Mokubung's mother tongue, Sotho, The brand, established in 2004, is known for its vibrant fabrics and bold designs with distinct silhouettes and structures.
Mokubung describes the woman who wears her clothes as someone who thinks of herself as a style leader, who is confident, well travelled and who values comfort. She likes quality and is willing to spend. She's conscious of black businesses doing well and is supportive of that. She's a mom who likes to live in the dresses she buys.
The number of stores that H&M has worldwide
Mokubung's current store, with wooden floors and deep, burgundy fabric sofas, is on the second floor of the 27 Boxes mall in Melville, Johannesburg. Though she's dressed some of the most successful people in their fields locally, such as Lira, Thandiswa Mazwai, Simphiwe Dana, Carol Bouwer, Nomzamo Mbatha and Sthandiwe Kgoroge, the H&M collaboration puts her on the global stage.H&M has over the years grappled with racial controversies that led to social media backlashes. Last year it was lambasted for an ad that featured a black child in a sweatshirt with the words "coolest monkey in the jungle" on it. In November 2015, H&M SA was accused of racism because very few black models featured in its adverts.Asked about the controversies, Mokubung says if the global retailer was only trying to make amends with this collaboration, it would probably limit the collection to a few stores in SA and leave it at that. But this is a global statement H&M is trying to make, she says.So how does she feel? "I feel deserving, like all the hours I've put in are finally paying off; I'm over the moon. I'm honoured to be the first African."Mokubung has been a designer for 15 years, including a stint at Stoned Cherrie. She went back to study for a BA from 2011 to 2013.She says fashion can be a lucrative business, "but you have to put in the time, the hours, and not take it for granted".And her plans now? "I'm eight months pregnant . there's a big plan. I almost just want to get this out of the way, and when I'm back from maternity leave at the end of July I'm going to the H&M launch and thereafter SA Fashion Week, which I want to kill. I'm just open to the world. Already I'm getting all sorts of interest and noise coming from everywhere in the world."Oldouz Mirzaie, country manager for H&M SA, says what stood out about Mokubung was that she understands her craft, who she is and who her customer is. "Apart from being an entrepreneur and a creative mind, she's also a businesswoman."