What I have learnt: Mantsho's Palesa Mokubung on her H&M collaboration

Palesa Mokubung reflects on her journey, milestones and young fashion designers

29 August 2019 - 10:58
Palesa Mokubung, head of design at Mantsho.
Palesa Mokubung, head of design at Mantsho.
Image: Supplied/H&M

On August 15 2019 Mantsho x H&M launched in South African H&M stores, online markets and exclusive flagship stores globally. The vibrant collection celebrates the elegance and diversity of Africa with modern edgy designs created for the stylish, carefree woman. 

We catch up with Mantsho’s head of design, Palesa Mokubung, as the dust finally begins to settle.

Mantsho x H&M has finally launched. How are you feeling?

It really has been a whirlwind. I am left with a whole range of emotions; I feel accomplished and deserving but, of course, also tremendously humbled and grateful.

How has the business of Mantsho been affected by the H&M collaboration since its announcement?

I feel Mantsho has been truly established and acknowledged; celebrated for our unique aesthetic and narrative. There’s also great focus on the business itself, which is keeping us tremendously busy.

What has been your single biggest lesson?

Undoubtedly, it’s not to compromise who you are and what you have to offer, regardless of who or what is involved.

Congratulations on the recent birth of your baby girl? How has this changed your perspective on life and work? 

I work faster and smarter because I’m always pressed for time. I don’t get around to doing everything I want to do, but it’s still all worth it because, at the end of the day, I come home to a little angel.

You mention that "the core of your inspiration is always a woman". Can you describe this type of woman? 

This woman is charismatic, unique, well-informed and warm-hearted. She is an artist, a corporate leader, nurturer, life-giver and warrior. She values empowering and supporting other women and entrepreneurs. She is an optimist. 

Since being announced as the first African designer to collaborate with the Swedish fashion giant, you’ve spoken a great deal about collaboration. How do you see your collaboration with H&M and the partnership as the ideal fit?

H&M looked to find a designer who would best reflect their intention to create an African-inspired collection. Mantsho was selected for its distinctly African designs and its ethos and aesthetic, which perfectly resonates with the global trends of diversity and finding inspiration from all over the world. 

H&M liked how we work with colour, print and silhouettes - enhancing the female shape in a flattering and playful way. From the outset both parties wanted a collaboration that remained true to my brand. We’ve achieved this. H&M’s biggest role was to support and advise on the best possible and cost-conscious way to make that possible. 

Mantso x H&M
Mantso x H&M
Image: Supplied/H&M

You’ve also stated that your collaboration with H&M is very much about women. Why is this important to you?

Women have so many vital roles to play in society, family and in business. As a woman I know that a good outfit can make you feel confident, powerful and unstoppable. There’s something about a Mantsho garment that flatters a woman’s body; that changes the way a woman looks and feels about herself. That is so important.

What milestones in your journey have shaped your career and enabled you to rise to this incredible opportunity?

Returning to school and getting my bachelor of arts degree in fashion design and creating my own textiles. These are now my signature. They really are what set me apart.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing young South African fashion designers, female designers in particular?

Balancing that delicate see-saw of home, social and personal life with work life. It’s the eternal challenge.

How significant is it that the first global collaboration of this kind was with a female designer from Africa? 

Thrilling and groundbreaking! I see it as my love letter to the world, from Africa. It’s also come at a time when women are openly standing up and seeking to be recognised and valued. Diversity, inclusion and shifting power and gender dynamics are ever-growing themes.

How do you believe young fashion designers, pattern makers etc can best be supported? 

I believe we need to establish government-supported mentorship programmes whereby an established designer is able to mentor around 10 students per term. The designers and students would need to be remunerated. It cannot be done for free.

If you could give one piece of advice to your daughter one day when addressing issues of self worth and/or success – what would that be? 

Never allow the world to define you or limit your success.

Cutting the ribbon at the H&M store in Sandton City on August 15 2019: Palesa Mokubung, H&M Sandton City store manager Mahesh Anand and H&M country manager Oldouz Mirzaie.
Cutting the ribbon at the H&M store in Sandton City on August 15 2019: Palesa Mokubung, H&M Sandton City store manager Mahesh Anand and H&M country manager Oldouz Mirzaie.
Image: Supplied/H&M

This article was paid for by H&M.