Fashion designer on track to conquer the world

RETHABILE MOHONO

MASERU - She had to sell her fashion designs while enduring the pressures of running fashion business to pay off her educational loans and further her studies. Drawing inspiration from landscapes, mountains and other local natural resources is young fashion designer Mabeile Malataliana, who has now been in the fashion business for more than five years.

“I named my brand ‘Lost in Lesotho’ because I always feel lost in the beauty of my own country,” she said. Although the fashion industry is taking baby steps before actually paying off, Malataliana is among the few designers who are already enjoying the fruits of their hard work.

She says she was able clear her educational loans and managed to continue her studies to enhance her fashion talent, which she has now turned into a career. Narrating her story, Malataliana said being from the countryside where people are not knowledgeable about apparel fashion, makes it typically very difficult for one to pursue a career in fashion.

She continued that fashion is perceptibly the type of art that requires very open minded, innovative and creative individuals who are able to lure inspirations from various forms of stimuli including the world, nature, other cultures and arts among many others.

But for her, being born and bred in Lesobeng, Ha Mahao, Tlhakoaneng, one of the most deserted and remotest areas in terms of infrastructure and services in the Thaba Tseka district, is enough inspiration to show the world what a girl from the boondock understands about fashion.

Malataliana, who is making statements with her various designs in every fashion show, studied Fashion Design at Thaba-Tseka Technical Institute (TTI). “I started my business while I was still at school and with the money I made out of selling my designs, I was able to settle my school loans,” she said adding that she then furthered her studies with the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) where she obtained an associate degree in Fashion and Apparel Design while also continuing her business.

“Ever since I graduated, my business participated in various occasions and dressed almost all beauty queens and a few other high profile personalities,” she said. Among countless events she participated in includes the launch of Lesotho Fashion Week Maseru Mall by the Allflo Couture, Indian Association Day, Fashion Meets Music, Art Fashion Week, Miss Lesotho, Mr Africa, Face of Lesotho, in addition to dressing popular models such as Mojabeng Senekal Ndebele, Tšepang Lekhoaba, among others.

Although she is able to put bread on the table, Malataliana complains that her main challenges are people who still do not understand her kind of business. “I’m not a dressmaker, I am a fashion designer and I do not plagiarise other people’s work. Instead, I design and sell my own designs, but Basotho make it very difficult for me because they bring designs from the internet for me to duplicate those,” she said.

Still on the challenges, she noted that designers come across people who undermine their efforts. “No matter how original and perfect your designs are, locals always complain about our prices. They would rather buy an international product at triple our amounts than support local products,” she said in a low voice.

Besides, she indicated there is a lot of business in fashion but the government is turning a blind eye. “We are facing high unemployment in the country and I think the government should help its people spot opportunities in fashion and in the creativity industry, tourism and many other sectors where developments are needed,” she said.

“For instance,” she continued, “if the government could set studios not only for fashion designs but also for photo shoots, and make-up arts to rent, it will help the fashion industry to grow.” Apart from running the Lost in Lesotho brand, the designer who will soon open her designs’ boutique revealed that although she works from home she also works under the close eye of Jobi Jonathan, a renowned businessman who is also her mentor.

“Mr Jonathan, who knows the basics of the business such as marketing, and producing quality sellable products, is currently doing a great job mentoring me,” she said.

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