Thabo Makheta on Building a Brand

Thabo Makheta started her business in 2009, soon after graduating. She applied for work in Europe and due to the Global Financial Crisis, fashion houses weren’t hiring. Her final year range had been awarded Most Creative Range and was featured in the newspaper and fortunately, this had attracted some clientele.

So whilst Thabo was waiting for a job, she started fulfilling the orders she was getting. Soon she got a large order to dress a choir that was touring overseas and that’s when Thabo Makheta formally started her business.  Now lets hear from Thabo Makheta herself as she shares her passion for design artistry.

Thabo Makheta on Building a Brand


My first choice was to study art and become an artist.  My parents were of the view that fashion design, which was my other option, could provide better opportunities for making a living and they’d be more supportive of that.


The first garment I ever created was a skirt and top combo when I was still in High School (grade 9). At the time, I didn’t understand the concept of patterns and seam allowance, so I just took one of my tops, traced it, and it didn’t really fit. It didn’t have zips or buttons, nevertheless, I squeezed into it and wore it to the dance.


Someone once said to me that “if you put your name on something, you’ll respect it more.” At around the time I was starting my design business, those words came back to me. I wanted to commit myself to high levels of quality and service and so, I backed it up by putting my name on the label.

 Thabo Makheta on Building a Brand


The person who wears a Thabo Makhetha, is a person who wants to make a statement without having to try. When they walk into a room they turn heads and command attention. A Thabo Makhetha client is successful, has an eye for unique designs, is definitely proud of their culture and understands that clothing is a powerful communication tool. 


Firstly, the South African retail market is skewed towards a  Eurocentric interpretation of style. This means that retail and boutique stores don’t buy into designers who aren’t within that defined creative box and as a result we’ve struggled over the years to get into stores.


The second challenge is designers who imitate our work. These designers, of which there are many, take creative shortcuts and try “cash in” on trends. Brands such as mine that thrive off innovation and creating unique one-of-a-kind pieces have suffered at the hands of imitators across the country.


The are many things that the industry was getting right but I feel we’ve taken our eyes off the ball. At some point national retailers had local designer capsule collections in their stores; have since gone and the concept of the Cape Town Fashion Council, which was meant to sweep across the country, eventually lost steam.   I’ve relied on industry events such as Design Indaba (that I can credit for putting my label on the map),  and the fashion week platforms, to grow my brand and to understand a bit about the business of fashion.


Improve: Access to retail opportunities for local designers in shopping malls and centers. Improve the quantity and quality of small CMT’s that can service local designers. 

Change: We need to broaden our idea of style, encourage and embrace designers who experiment with different style inspirations.

Thabo Makheta on Building a Brand


The Outfit designed here makes use of the Traditional Basotho Blankets.this is a thick heavy material which is placed against its opposite, soft flowing chiffon.  I wanted to go with an elegant but sexy feel for the dress, so I went with a key hole opening on the top and the lining is short while the chiffon that falls over it is full length and give the dress volume. The blankets is used as a decretive trim around the neck and waist. The doek (head wrap) and Oversized Collar (O.C) Cape add to the overall look of the design.

The design was inspired by history. One only has to look at the ruins of Thumaela to learn the the ancient civilisation that lived there (linked to the pedi people) use to trade in glass bead, metals and porcelain with the far east long before the first european ships arrived on southern african soil. The designed look looks at how these historic figures could have dressed in modern times. Dramatic flowing gowns rich in colour embellished in traditional prints and metals.


Production | @styleafricafn

Designer | @tmakcc

Model | @tash_schulz of @topcomodels

Stylist | @roshanisaacs for @styleafricafn

Makeup Artist |@thedrkansley_mua of @h2tmakeup

Photographer |@larryephotography

Location | @cameralandct


Thank You


for sharing your design story with Style Africa

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