I would like to share my passion project story with you and it goes a little like this:
My name is Refiloe Mapitso Thaisi. I am the founder and creative director of ShweShweKini Active Wear. This is my passion project and side gig which I hope to turn into my main gig soon. I want to be part of the successful entrants for the Foschini #Sebenzagirl #Showusyourhustle competition to network, share my journey and to be inspired by and inspire women creatives at the Foschini All Woman Creators networking event on 25 November 2017 in Johannesburg.
This proudly South African brand is inspired by the South African seShweshwe patterns manufactured in this country. Since its launch in May 2017, the brand has received so much appreciation and love from people, magazines and newspapers from different walks of life. It has given me the opportunity to connect with celebrities I looked up to as a child, creatives, fashion designers , and most importantly it has connected me with many Basotho people from Lesotho and South Africa, from whom I draw inspiration.
ShweShweKini has provided me with a gift of creativity where I get to tell my cultural story authentically and where I have found my belonging . It has taken me back home to my roots as a Mosotho child and has intensified my appreciation for the African brand since its inception.
Growing up I drew fashion inspiration from my mother, who loved custom made seShweshwe dresses and still does. I always thought that I could never see myself in a seShweshwe dress as it was reserved for the more older, mature women in our family and culture, but also for big ceremonial rituals and events such as weddings or funerals or special functions. She always reminded me that I needed to earn the right to wear a seshweshwe dress and as a developing child, the idea of wearing the seshweshwe felt like a distant dream. So I brushed it off.
As I love traveling, gym and just comfortable clothing – mainly in fabrics that stretch , I decided to start a swimwear and active wear label, but it had to be different. In starting my brand, I was desperate for an African collection. So I looked to my culture and I was reminded of the colourful , vibrant colours of the seShweshwe fabrics and its vast patterns. This was then the beginning of ShweShweKini.
The brand also came about at a time when I was tired of the swimwear that could not fit my body shape as petite as I am and I always found the swimwear too plain and lacking in African art. I also found that with many swimwear brands I chose, I always had to change my body, like lose weight in order to fit into them. This proved that I just simply could not keep up with the image the world was painting of what goes and what does not go into swimwear. I naturally lost interest in swimwear and stopped buying any form of it in 2015 because I had lost hope.
A twist of glamour and culture
My take on ShweShweKini is to provide swimwear and active wear that does not require one to change anything about themselves in order to fit in, but to design a brand with the person in mind, to fit their body as it is. Very much like how my mother’s tailors used to make seShweshwe dresses that catered for her individual body needs, that is what I want Shweshwekini to feel like on the buyer. Currently I do customize the current collection designs according to my customers needs.
Goals for the brand
My goal for ShweShweKini is to provide a variety of styles that cater for women and men of all shapes and sizes. Styles for people who love covering up, those who want to expose a bit of assets and those who simply want to look good in the range that is catered for them. I want to see the brand growing, as the place where women and men find clothes that fit their body shape without them having to change anything to fit into the range.
I would like to see it expanding in South Africa and globally. I want to be able to offer students and graduates from fashion schools, creatives, accountants , HR relations or legal practitioners and finance graduates , even medical graduates job placement opportunities to enhance their skills and provide valuable learning experience in their careers. Creating job security and contributing to the South African economy is my ultimate goal for ShweShweKini.
Many have called it a radical take of traditional clothing to a modern take of apparel in an area that is often forgotten- swimwear and active wear. Many have also said it reminds them of how proud they are to be South African and that concepts like ShweShweKini, makes one even more proud to support African brands. It is this kind of response that inspires my work, creativity and reminds me of the essence of Ubuntu that ties us as South Africans and Africans.
Shweshwekini has truly been a calling and what becomes of the brand remains an African fairy-tale that I am excited to tell and tag my people along with me on this journey.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is my hustle, my passion project, a side gig I hope turns into my main gig.
Thank you for this opportunity Foschini.