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    Boutique Fashion News — culture

    Countdown: CALLEFI Premium Lifestyle Event 20-22 July

    CALLEFI SAVE THE DATECounting down to London’s CALLEFI Lux Weekend & Investment Forum on 20-22 July, 2018, supporting Premium and Luxury Lifestyle Brands of African & Caribbean heritage for tangible social impact.

    Come and enjoy art, fashion, dining, music & culture.

    Sapelle will be showcasing our new ‘Sapelle x Adire’ fashion collection.

    Venue: One Horseguards, London SW1

    Click here for details and tickets: https://www.callefi.com/

     

     

     

     

     

    Deep Roots of the Basotho Blanket

    Basotho blankets

    Right now, dropping the words Basotho blanket into a conversation may draw blank looks of incomprehension from most people. But all that is changing.

    Glimpses of the upcoming Black Panther movie (coming out in February 2018) reveal scenes where the warriors of the Wakanda kingdom are draped in Basotho blankets, casting the spotlight on an iconic feature of the clothing and culture of the small mountain kingdom of Southern Africa, Lesotho.

    Basotho Blankets glimpsed on a scene from the Black Panther movie trailer

    Basotho Blankets glimpsed on a scene from the Black Panther movie trailer

    This is by no means the first time the silver screen has launched a look or a trending style. The relationship between film and fashionista is a long-standing love affair.

    Think Alexander McQueen’s autumn/winter 2007 collection which was inspired by Elizabeth Taylor’s striking Cleopatra outfits. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner has firmly established the fur coat and pompadour haircut as a cool 21st century look. And Anita Eckberg in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita is at least partly responsible for that enduring fashion staple – the little black dress.

    Basotho Blankets spotted in a scene from the Black Panther trailer

    Basotho Blankets spotted in a scene from the Black Panther trailer

    And now, the Basotho blanket is being showcased and given a brand-new fashion twist by luxury brands like Louis Vuitton; brands dedicated to showcasing contemporary African fashion like yours truly, Sapelle; and Sotho and Southern African designers like Thabo Makhetha celebrating their culture. Chic ponchos, bomber jackets, dresses, shirts and trouser suits are all part of an exciting and ever-evolving collection based on the Basotho blanket.

    SA-based designer Thabo Makhetha's signature textile is the Basotho blanket.

    SA-based designer Thabo Makhetha’s signature textile is the Basotho blanket.

    The Basotho Blanket Backstory

    By no means a relic from ancient history, the Basotho blanket made its debut around 150 years ago. Legend has it that back in 1860, King Moshoeshoe I (pronounced ‘Moshweshwe’) of Lesotho was presented with a wool blanket as a gift from the French. He was so delighted with it that he had a wardrobe makeover, replacing his traditional leopard-skin kaross with the blanket. The King’s look was adopted by his fellow countrymen and women. Not only did it look beautiful, it was also just the thing for the country’s cold mountainous climate. It’s said that the contrasting stripe that is a permanent fixture in the blanket’s print design, started out as a manufacturing flaw but was embraced as a unique feature.

    And so, the Basotho blanket as the iconic garment of the Lesotho people was born.

    Wearing the Basotho Blanket in a ceremonial setting: Semonkong Lodge staff don the attire for the King's visit

    Wearing the Basotho Blanket in a ceremonial setting: Semonkong Lodge staff don the attire for the King’s visit

    Whereas in the west, we grapple with a ‘throw away’ culture, switching fashion styles on a whim, the Basotho blanket has endured for over a century as the traditional clothing of the Basotho people of Lesotho. It boldly symbolises pride in the national culture and traditions.

    The deep roots of Basotho Blankets

    For the Sotho people, the Basotho blanket is so much more than an item of clothing. Its roots are deeply embedded in Lesotho’s history and it plays a major role in its culture and identity.

    Different blankets are worn at significant turning points on the journey from cradle to grave. During their circumcision ritual, boys wear a special fertility blanket and this is replaced by another blanket after the ceremony to acknowledge their transition to manhood.

    Basotho Blankets worn by Sotho people of the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho

    Basotho Blankets worn by Sotho people of the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho

    From a young age, girls collect blankets in preparation for their marriage trousseau. For his wedding, a man wears a motlotlehi, and on the birth of the couple’s first child, he gives his wife a serope. Like the kente cloth in Ghana or the bogolan (mud cloth) in Mali, the Basotho blanket is a textile enshrined like a precious jewel in local culture and represents major milestones in a person’s life cycle.

    Collaboration with ‘authentic’ designers.

    With its distinctive designs, the Basotho blanket is also a thing of great beauty, a fact that has not been lost on the global fashion industry. There has been a lot of debate recently about international brands working with heritage design, examining where ‘inspiration’ turns into ‘appropriation’ – read the BBC article on the Basotho blanket issue in the link below. At Sapelle, we believe that respecting the ownership and rights of the cultures we work with is the only fair way forward and so we have collaborated with an ‘authentic’ designer who originates from the Sotho people, Thabo Makhetha to produce our stylish poncho.

    Sapelle x Thabo Makhetha Basotho Blanket in Blue print (also available in Monochrome print)

    Sapelle x Thabo Makhetha Basotho Blanket in Blue print (also available in Monochrome print)

     The future’s bright. The future’s ethical

    There’s never been a better time for fashion companies to rethink their strategies along ethical lines, whether its thinking about the environmental impact or consulting and collaborating with the cultures that originate the designs, and even helping to promote them to as to keep heritage wealth alive and thriving.

    We now know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the food we eat counts. It’s becoming increasingly evident that the clothes we put on our backs need to be part of a radically new way of thinking. For the future to look bright, the universe desperately needs conscious designers who will lead the way in ethical fashion production.

    Read the BBC piece: ‘When does cultural borrowing become cultural appropriation’

    Shop the Sapelle x Thabo Makhetha Basotho Blanket Poncho here

    Words: Yvonne Lloyd

    Header image: courtesy of I See A Different You

    Sapelle Launches Basotho Blanket Poncho with Thabo Makhetha

    Sapelle Thabo Makhetha Basotho Wool Cape

    Thabo Makhetha for Sapelle Basotho Blanket

    Sapelle is rolling out its Autumn Winter 2016 range with unique, timeless pieces that epitomise the brand’s commitment to fuse African heritage and design with a contemporary global chic aaesthetic. One of the first pieces to be featured is a collaborative piece between Sapelle and South African designer, Thabo Makhetha – the Basotho Blanket Poncho in 100% wool.

    The blankets originate from the small “Mountain Kingdom” of Lesotho, which is nestled in the Maloti Mountains, and is one of the few southern African countries that experience very cold winters.

    The tribal blankets have a deep cultural significance and history and a er very much a part of the cultural identity of the Basotho people, who wear it as part of their everyday life.

    What makes the Basotho blankets unique is the layout of the design, the various symbols used, the bold colour combinations and the characteristic pin-stripe. This stripe was originally a weaving fault which has become a unique part of the design and dictates how the blanket is worn. When worn in the traditional manner, the pin-stripe runs vertically, symbolising growth.

    Basotho Blankets worn by Sotho people of the Mountain Kingdom

    A range of Basotho Blankets worn by Sotho people of the Mountain Kingdom

    The corncob is the most widely used motif throughout the range of the Basotho heritage blankets. In Basotho culture maize is the staple food and therefore the corncob is a symbol of fertility and wealth. The more prestigious Seanamarena design features more corncobs than the everyday wearing blankets, the Sefate and Morena.

    Thabo Makhetha uses traditional Basotho Blanket

    Thabo Makhetha is a rising star designer using traditional Basotho Blanket

    Thabo is a South African fashion designer of Sotho descent, and she’s best known for her pret-a-porter range of winter capes inspired and made from traditional Basotho blankets. Sapelle’s in-house designer created the contemporary silhouette of the poncho, and Thabo was therefore the perfect partner to produce this range in collaboration with us.

    Spurred by the media interest in the “blanket coat” she showcased a collection titled Kobo Ea Bohali (Blankets of Prestige) at the 2013 Design Indaba Expo in Cape Town and was soon hailed as one of the emerging creatives to look out for. Thabo Makhetha features regularly in leading fashion magazines such as ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, Women and Home (SA). Internationally her work has been covered in the New York Post (USA), Wall Street Journal (USA) and numerous fashion blogs.

    Sapelle’s CEO Daphne Kasambala said, “We’re very excited to have collaborated with Thabo on this product. Sapelle is all about showcasing the best of African heritage and design, therefore bringing a product that marries both the historic Sotho textile with the fresh design talent that is Thabo Makhetha is a double achievement for us. We think the cape is fabulous for the cold weather. It’s made of very high quality wool, and its unique design is stunning and yet it looks great on any urban street, from Johannesburg to London.”

    The poncho is available exclusively, in various options at Sapelle’s online store and London showroom.

    Sapelle Thabo Makhetha Basotho Blanket

    The Sapelle Thabo Makhetha Cape

    Photo Credit: Aranda

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    African Carnivals That Rival Notting Hill’s

    Notting Hill Carnival may be Europe’s biggest street party but wait till you see what Africa has to offer. Countries all over the continent have been hosting their own spectacular carnivals for years (and in some cases, centuries) that draw in spectators from all over the world. These colourful celebrations are a cross-cultural exchange that combine all the charm and glamour of Rio but with an extra special African twist. It’s interesting to see that most of the biggest carnivals happen in Lusophone countries which have a shared Portuguese colonial connection with Brazil, the undisputed home of Carnival. But it’s great to also that Nigeria and South Africa have started their own carnival traditions. We’re sure this will catch on across Africa, a continent bursting with all the right ingredients of a rich and vibrant culture, music, story-telling, dance, and..

    Read more