On 31 May 2017 I announced to the world that I had a new swim wear and active wear line. That was probably one of the most scariest, but proudest and exciting moments that I have ever experienced. When I finally decided to introduce my new venture to people on social media, I remember I was at work that day and my phone never stopped buzzing with notifications from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I watched from my iPhone screen as people welcomed my new venture with so much appreciation and support (Thank you !).
What is ShweShweKini?
ShweShwekini is a range of SeShweshwe printed bikini and active wear for women (and soon for men). The line is inspired by the seShoeShoe (shweshwe) fabric, which is the fabric that the Basotho men and women have used for decades to create bespoke traditional dresses and outfits for men, women and even for children. Ever since the launch, ShweShwekini , the name alone has attracted many people from different generations and industries (even Dj Fresh said he loves the name on Twitter!). This makes me feel grateful that my idea was well received and supported by the majority of people who saw it.
History of ShweShwe
In the early 1840s French missionaries presented the Basotho king, King Moshoeshoe-I with a gift of indigo printed cloth, establishing a cloth preference that grew during the 19th century, and still prevails today, hence the term shoeshoe or isishweshwe.
The Basotho culture is so rich in creativity. From our traditional Basotho Blankets – Dianamarena (meaning to honour kings) , which have been making waves internationally, by local and international fashion houses; to the Dishoeshoe (shweshwe) fabrics worn by Basotho women, and our traditional woven hats, we are one creative African clan.
I was inspired by mother while growing up, she was always so fond of her shweshwe dresses and she probably owns more shweshwe dresses than the dresses in my closet alone. I never thought I would ever wear shweshwe in my life as it always appeared too serious, too traditional and I always thought that it was reserved for more mature people like our parents or the older generation.
My interest in swimsuits probably started back in 2009 when I entered a local beauty pageant back home in Welkom. We had Swimwear sponsored by a well known retail company, which many of our parents probably have accounts with. I remember being given a swimsuit and looking at it and wishing it were a little bit different. It was plain black with a pop of blue colour. After that pageant, I tried to go and buy swimsuits there again, but I could never really find anything that I liked.
The last time I purchased a bikini was from an online company in 2015 just before my trip to Thailand and to my disappointed, the bottoms could not fit my bold curve and it was clear that they were meant for women with a more Demi or flat bottoms. In creating Shweshwekini, I want to change that, instead I want to create swimwear that caters for the African women’s hips and curves so they too can feel comfortable without the need to constantly fit into models that were meant to exclude them.
Currently most ladies that order my bikinis, I custom make the for them to ensure that that are fitted perfectly.
I then gave up on even buying Swimwear again and hoped there was someone with a different idea. I then started my business plan on making Swimwear out of African patterns in June 2016 while sitting in my university residence room, but never really knew where to start. Until I spotted Kente Swimwear on Instagram during the time and that for me was the beginning of hope and a life changer, to see other black girls using their traditional fabrics to create Swimwear. I then searched for the possibility of ShweShwe Swimwear and after finding nothing in the market, I knew that this was the right time to explore more with the idea.
Given that the ShweShwe fabric is what it is today because of the prestige that the basotho have instilled in it and that is the essence of the fabric, it demands so much respect , pride and honour. I can only hope that ShweShweKini also embodies that in a different form.
In our culture when a woman wears a seShweshwe garment she is highly regarded, and stands out from the rest, hence it is not a fabric that is easily accessible to just anyone. It is distinctive like that in nature. It is expensive to make a dress out of it and often worn only at important traditional ceremonies such as a wedding, mekete (traditional events), funerals, church, or in parliament (kgotla).
At big ceremonial or public gatherings in Lesotho where the king and queen are present, you will often see the queen of Lesotho dressed smart in her seshweshwe dresses and the king will often wear shirts with shweshwe print as well.
Idea behind ShweShweKini
The fabric itself is prestigious and in creating ShweShwekini, I wanted to create a product that many people could resonate with and still uphold the prestige and beauty of Shweshwe. I wanted to add a young, vibrant feel to the fabric that could attract the younger generation who have now grown up like myself and are keen adventurers and creativists, by adding my creativity to the patterns and the designs.
My dream is to see every woman and man who wears the Shweshwekini brand to feel proud to wear a prestigious luxury brand , to know that they are wearing a good quality product that South Africans all over the world can easily identify with. Whether you are at the beach, the gym or maybe just relaxing, you still would feel like a luxury brand wearing Shweshwekini.
Where to from here
There is still so much work and exciting designs coming up within the brand. Such as the men’s swim wear range and the active wear line. Right now I am focusing on the bikini line and my dream is to see the brand growing into a large supply of swim wear and gym clothing locally and internationally. I want to see international models one day walking down the runway in ShweShweKini. I also want to see athletes clothed in ShweShweKini active wear soon. All of the possibilities of this brand makes me feel so excited and keen to strive for more within this new venture. I am eternally thankful to have been blessed with this idea and creativity.
Buying and ordering the items
The process of setting up an online shop is still ongoing, I hope to launch it soon. We continue to market and make the swimsuits while we wait. People who are interested in buying the swim suits can email firstname.lastname@example.org for orders, we deliver free of charge locally. International orders are also welcome and additional shipping charges apply.
I cannot wait to see you crowned in one of the ShweShweKini designs.
My warmest regards to you all,
Founder & Director of ShweShweKini Active Wear (Pty) Ltd