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Seshoeshoe contest opens doors for designer

Designer Tsoanelo Jae

Mohalenyane Phakela

FASHION designing runs in the blood of Tsoanelo Jae and the recent AVANI Hotels sponsored Seshoeshoe cultural dress design competition where her three designs won big, was a turning point as it has transformed her into a sought-after designer.

Jae designed six dresses for different contestants for the prestigious competition dubbed the Khaba Joalo Ka ‘Mabasotho Seshoeshoe competition which was held on 9 June.

In addition, the outfit she wore to the event also made it to top 5 out of 42 finalists.

“Although the dress I was wearing did not win the competition I feel like a winner because I designed and made the dresses which were won by the three winners Bokang Lekomola, Karabelo T?osane and Rehauhetoe Maruping,” the Peka-born designer told Xpress People in a recent interview.

She described the competition as a turning point as it had opened more doors to grow her career.

“When I learned of the competition, I approached five of the ladies I had made dresses for and asked if I could also contest because I saw this would be a perfect opportunity to market myself as I had relied heavily on social media before then.

“Besides the joy of the dresses winning, I was also asked to judge a fashion in Clarens (South Africa) next month and I will also be featured in an online magazine.

“I am working closely with three aforementioned ladies as well as image consultant, Nthabiseng Mphana and Maserato Makoa who supplied accessories such as handbags and shoes we used at the event,” Peka said.

Peka graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in General Nursing and Midwifery from the National University of Lesotho in 2008 and her designing career continues to blossom despite the lack of formal training.

She designs and makes traditional regalia, dresses for special events, corporate wear and bridal gowns among others.

She draws inspiration from Lesotho-born George Malelu of South African fashion house Quiteria & George as well as South African, David Tlale among others who also have humble beginnings.

She said her taste for fashion began at an early age and by the times she was at university she had gained a reputation for making her own dresses rather than buying from boutiques.

“I have always loved fashion and when I was five years old I made dresses for my doll from old clothes in the house. While in high school I studied home economics which included sewing and I designed my first dress and made it from table cloth.

“At university I wanted to wear clothes that fitted me perfectly and be unique at the same time. So I started making my own clothes and people would ask where I bought them. I began getting requests from students and lecturers to make dresses for them.”

She said she chose to study nursing because she was not ready for the attention fashion design would bring, adding she often refused to be featured in magazines and newspapers as she believed she needed to have a formal fashion qualification to be taken seriously.

She said she still harboured dreams of obtaining a formal design qualification as her goal was to compete with internationally acclaimed designers.

“I practiced as a nurse from 2008 to 2010 and thereafter lectured at the National Health Training Centre. It was in 2015 when I quit in order to follow my true passion and I registered my company Miss Jay Clothing.

“I started by importing clothes from China for resale and also opened a shop selling fabrics but those projects did not work out.”

She added that since her “focus has always been making outfits” she went back to making dresses which she advertised on social media.

“I am passionate about this work and when I make a dress for any person, I put all effort. Before making a dress, I first interview the client in order to understand her personality and ethnocentricity as some ladies tend to demand dresses that they saw elsewhere which may not look good on them.

“I am motivated by my clients who have remained loyal to this day. Through social media and word-of-mouth I got more clients to a point where at times I have to turn some away when I am overwhelmed by the number of orders.”

She however, said Basotho needed to have more faith in local talent irrespective of the field, instead of the current scenario where they preferred imports.

“My company is still at its infancy and I sometimes find myself competing for local tenders with big companies from South Africa.”

“I am currently working from home but my dream is to one day own a one-stop shop where people can get their dresses and as well as image consultancy.

“I am also working on hosting a show which feature image counselling and wardrobe assistance during women’s month in August,” she said, adding she was working with Nthabiseng.

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