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Mobu by Melo designer draws from the thebetha dress

mobu by melo, african design, sotho fashion

By Nomali Cele

Recently, 25-year-old Mamello Mosase broke the internet when her lookbook for her brand, Mobu by Melo, was launched online. The lookbook, shot by budding young photographer, Kgomotso Neto Tleane, features models dressed in various Mobu by Melo designs from the Seilatsatsi range casually strolling the streets of Daveyton or posing in different yards.

Even before the viewer gets entranced by Mosase’s designs, they are met by something that is rare in fashion: plus size models.What is eye-catching about the shoot, aside from the stunning Mobu by Melo designs, is how ordinary it all looks. Just beautiful Afropolitan women going about their lives and owning space. The range prominently features tiered dresses for which Mosase drew from the thebetha dress worn by local Basotho women.

We got in touch with Mamello Mosase, designer and owner of Mobu by Melo to discuss the inspiration behind the new range.

“The name Seilatsatsi is from an old Basotho Folktale that speaks of a big beautiful girl,” says Mosase. “She was not allowed to go out into the sun because she would become ugly and die, one day she did and it was glorious.” Anyone who’s seen the lookbook images will agree that models were glorious in the sun.

On the inspiration behind the range

“The Seilatsatsi range was inspired by the thebetha dress worn by Basotho Women of South Africa. It is one of the rarest attire a Mosotho woman can have and wear due to its intricate design process and meaning. The thebetha dress is made from different color fabrics that are usually hard in texture and different colour piping is used on every step of the dress.”

thebetha dress, sotho fashion, sotho women's fashion

The traditional thebetha dress (photo via Nontando Mposo)

What the thebetha dress symbolises

“The steps of the skirt are said to represent the stages a girl goes through to fully arrive into womanhood, beadwork is also used on the Thebetha and there is a layer underneath the skirt, originally made with wire and hard leather. I have seen little children under these balloon skirts although I have never asked of the significance behind this act it has always intrigued me. The Thebetha is only worn by groups of women and hardly by individuals.”

 

On how her Sotho heritage influenced the designs for the new range

“I chose to use the thebetha dress to represent Seilatsatsi as I have always been fascinated by it while growing up in Qwaqwa. I noticed that it is not celebrated enough as part of Basotho attire. This was my way of using my passion as a Mosotho girl, which is fashion to teach my peers about our history, to make them aware of how rich we are as a people. There are so many messages in our history, for us and generations to come. It is important”

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