'The challenge to wear a doek every day kick-started my design business'

Tebogo Petlele's quest to have zero bad hair days sparked the idea for her head-wrap brand, Seponono

22 June 2017 - 11:06
By Siphiliselwe Makhanya
Tebogo Petlele in her own design.
Image: JACKIE CLAUSEN Tebogo Petlele in her own design.

Whether it’s a glamorous Naija bride’s Gele fabric head-wrap or a subsistence farmer’s protection from sun and dirt, the simple doekis a sometimes proud, sometimes humble sartorial necessity in many women’s wardrobes.

Recognising this, entrepreneur Tebogo Petlele has found herself a niche by supplying African print head-wraps under the brand Seponono.

Petlele says the realisation of the role of the doek in her own busy life is what pushed her to start a business inspired by it.

"I started a journey of self discovery last year in July, when I moved back to Durban from Johannesburg. My best friend and I left Joburg in the early hours of the morning and I had my head-wrap on because I knew that by the time we arrived in Durban the sun would be out and I would have to do lot of errands getting myself sorted out and settled. I didn't want to worry about my hair.

"I remember very well while off-loading my stuff thinking to myself: 'I don't want to take off my head-wrap until I find my purpose in life.' I had found myself in a position were I was tired of routine and my comfort zone.''

She set herself a challenge - to wear a head-wrap every day.

"I continued wearing them for the rest of the year, which meant I had no bad hair days for a year."

Petlele decided to turn her new style statement into a business after attending the launch of book about collaboration and transformation in Africa. "The women there looked amazing with their African print head-wraps."

She had also noticed the positive feedback she received about her own headscarves.

"Friends and strangers on the street used to ask me where I got my African print head-wraps and they were always fascinated by the way I wrapped it around my head.

"I would also get compliments from elders, middle-aged people, teenagers and even young kids, who would point at my head-wrap while passing by. I received lots of respect from everyone and I thought, why not share that with other women."

The business turns a year old in August. Petlele is now also testing the water on making dresses for her range.

While researching her designs, Petlele looked up the different head-wrap styles and traditions from fellow African countries. She imports different fabrics and designs the head-wraps, which are then executed by a sewing team.

"I put a lot of care into clothing and style in general. I would describe my style and taste as African hip - I like detail and visual interest. My designs are mostly influenced by the cultures of Africa, many of which use a lot of colour in their apparel.

"Cultures from east and west Africa, for instance, incorporate a lot of colour into their clothes - similarly, you'll find this influence in the pops of colour in Seponono head-wraps."

Seponono head-wraps are available via courier nationwide.

Visit the Seponono Facebook page or e-mail seponono.africa@gmail.com

• This article was originally published in The Times.