The apron is now an emblem of female empowerment thanks to the Monorap

By redesigning a piece of everyday kitchen apparel, Lethabo Moraka has created a symbol of social change for the modern woman, writes Atlehang Ramathesele

08 November 2020 - 00:03 By Atlehang Ramathesele
You can tie the Monorap in many different ways.
You can tie the Monorap in many different ways.
Image: Thebe Muyisa

The humble apron has gone through multiple phases over the years. Historically worn by a wide range of people including homemakers, tradespeople, fishmongers and the like, it has been everything from a practical kitchen item to a status symbol.

Closer to home, I sometimes associate it with a loosely tied voorskoot that I watched my aunties and grandmothers don to mass-cater a family event. Images of nimble hands peeling carrots in bulk in a garage or a billowing cloud of scone flour swirling off their pinafores come to mind.

It would seem a similar visual was true for Lethabo Moraka, the brains behind Moraka Interiors, a lifestyle brand that creatively fuses homeware and fashion.

With a background in interior design and fashion buying, she was conscious of how uncomfortable she felt wearing a traditional apron.

“I personally don't wear one often and I discovered that neither do many of my millennial counterparts. I didn't like the way it made me feel. It just gave me a sense that I belonged in the kitchen. It was stifling. It was not speaking to my personality. So it inspired me to design one for the modern woman,” she says.

Enter the Monorap, a signature item that started as a homage to the apron and has since evolved into a fashion statement being interpreted in beautiful ways by different women.

Made from natural fabrics and available in a variety of colours, it reflects the versatility of women. “We're so diverse as women — we are lawyers, architects, engineers, investment bankers and creatives. I wanted to design something that spoke to that growth and development. Because it's so different to what our great-grandmothers wore,” says Moraka.

I wanted to design something that spoke to that growth and development. Because it's so different to what our great-grandmothers wore
Lethabo Moraka, designer of the Monowrap

You can tie the Monorap in whatever way you like. “We've been told how to wear certain things for ages and I think it is high time we get to decide how we want specific items to look and feel on us. It is about living authentically and setting your own rules,” she says.

From being an item meant to safeguard your garments from bacon splatter, it has become the garment itself.

A proudly South African item made from locally sourced materials for an array of body types, it's a nod to the evolution of women and a redefinition of how we view our roles and the items we associate with them.

“The apron has left the kitchen,” laughs Moraka. It's no wonder, then, that South African fashion icons such as Yasmin Furmie have been spotted in the Monorap. Some of those who own one remark that wearing it makes them feel in control.

Moraka feels that the traditional apron and its primary use still have a place in society and she's workshopping designs for a revamp. The Monorap isn't about denouncing the apron; it's more about seeing it in a different light that reflects the modern world.

This approach underpins Moraka's philosophy for her brand as she transforms how people experience homeware and fashion in their daily lives.

“We need innovation. It's about redesigning everyday items in sophisticated, stylish and creative ways for multiple purposes. Fast fashion is falling away and we should consider more sustainable ways of using everything,” she says.

This is certainly true of her other brainchild, the Moraka Oversized Tote for picnics. Taking note of South African braai, beach and picnic culture, it's a practical storage item with storage space for plates, glasses, utensils, even your tipple for the day — and it doubles up as a picnic blanket.

Moraka wanted to design something over-the-top and fabulous that spoke to the lifestyle of the modern woman — and this delivers. When someone walks into a garden carrying this larger-than-life bag, you just have to know more. Especially because it's quite a spectacle when it is unzipped right down the middle and puffs on the ground into a chic extravaganza of cotton and fleece.

Moraka Interiors plans to continue to find ways to put a spin on everyday products and tools that reflect the advancement and diversity of women in their careers and homes. It's empowering to shed the weight of how some of these conventional items might be perceived.

“It's now about making a bold statement that as women we're here, unapologetically taking up space and owning who we are,” says Moraka.

The Monorap comes in a selection of colours priced from R1,200. The Mokara Oversized Tote is R2,500. They're both available from the Moraka Interiors website.