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Mantsho: “Brutally Black” Fashion Brand from SA!

By Fashion Academy

Palesa Mokubung: The creator of Mantsho, “Brutally Black”!

‘Palesa’ means ‘flower’ in her native Sesotho language, which Palesa Mokubung has in the logo of her Clothing Brand ‘Mantsho’ meaning ‘brutally black’ or, to put it subtly, ‘a beautiful complexion’. She has not one but four flowers (or petals) with a female face in each of them in her logo which her artist brother designed for her.flower’ in her native Sesotho language, which Palesa Mokubung has in the logo of her Clothing Brand ‘Mantsho’ meaning ‘brutally black’ or, to put it subtly, ‘a beautiful complexion’. She has not one but four flowers (or petals) with a female face in each of them in her logo which her artist brother designed for her.

The story of Mantsho would have been entirely different, or even never heard of, had Palesa been born in some other place in the Apartheid South Africa than in Kroonstad (Crown City) in the Free State province close to Gauteng, a highly metropolitan province with the SA’s largest city, Johannesburg, and the administrative capital, Pretoria, and some of the important industrial areas.

She was destined to be born in a Crown City to wear a Crown in the country’s fashion industry!

She named her Fashion Brand ‘Mantsho’ probably for two reasons: one, after the nickname ‘Mantsho’ she was given when she was young and, the other, she has an emotional attachment to her native South African culture, which you will feel as the story unfolds.


Palesa Mokubung crossed all the right milestones in building her fashion brand, Mantsho:

#she joined fashion designing course at the university but dropped out to find more practical approach than the one given in theory; (but she ultimately completed her bachelor’s later)

#designed her own dresses which, in 2000, caught the eye of Nkhensai Nkosi, the owner of Stoned Cherrie, one of the famed fashion designers; got a job at Stoned Cherrie and sold her first stock of 30 dresses in one day and was encouraged by Nkosi to make more;

#in 2003 Palesa entered a young fashion talent competition, using the themes from South Africa’s 10 Years of Freedom, and after winning the competition, she travelled abroad with her ‘stunning’ collection;

#left Stoned Cherrie in 2004 to launch her own brand, Mantsho; and, like most other startups, she started it from her mother’s cottage;

#in 2008, Mantsho was one of the finalists for Design Indaba’s Most Beautiful Object in South Africa 2008 (Nested Bunk Beds by Y.Tsai of Tsai Design Studio won the prize);

#created her own fabric;

#nominated for South African Art and Culture Award in 2009;

#a bigger break came along when she was nominated for the Mercedes-Benz Award for South African Art and Culture 2009 Fashion Design (Black Coffee, a more popular fashion brand, won the award);

#won the 73rd Annual Fashion Forward International Thessaloniki Show held in Greece, standing as the first and only South African designer to do her own unique fabric.


Palesa has had her designs exhibited at almost all the SA and other African Fashion Shows and exhibitions.

Mantsho Afro-space-age frocks have found a place in the Daimler Contemporary Art Exhibition in Berlin.

Palesa’s Mantsho was on “Top 10 Fierce South African Women in Fashion”, 2010.

Palesa Mokubung’s collection was received well at SA Fashion Week in Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2014.

She also won a Fashion and Innovation Award at the Mbokoko Women in the Arts Awards in 2014, which gave her a chance to take her talent to a higher level and advance her technical and theoretical knowledge to suit the fast changing fashion arena.

Palesa was one of the best designers present at the South African National Archery Association (SANAA) 2014, showcasing their best designs in honour of the sports personalities.

Mantsho’s lines were one of the ‘Five Renowned African Designers’ at the Africa Africans Fashion Parade, part of the special program designed by Sao Paulo Fashion Week for the celebration of its 20 years in Brazil.

Palesa visited Greece, India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Botswana, Senegal, Brazil and the USA (New York) showcasing her Mantsho label designs.


Apart from her promotional videos, personal interviews and fashion show discussions, on YouTube, Palesa Mokubung has appeared in some of the TV shows: Top Billing, 3-Talk with Noeleen Maholwana Sangqu, MTV Base, 20 Something, Trace Your Roots, The Cut (as a Judge), the SABC Africa Channel,etc.

Little known fact about Palesa is that she is a musician and signs with her Sesotho band Jtjapedi, making her audience dance to her tunes. She worked at ChiLLimag, an online entertainment magazine and media/news publishing agency, for some time.


Palesa Mokubung has shown very close attachment to the African culture. She uses the African streak more in her designs. She uses the native lavish headdresses and traditional African hairdo; selects the colors and patterns that reflect the African tastes; and uses locally made cotton fabric. For instance, she is one of a very few designers in Africa who tailored gowns in ‘shwe-shwe’ fabric aka ‘Amadaki’, hailed as the tartan of South Africa, which she used as her signature element. She is seldom seen wavering from the African culture in her designs, either for the local or for the international shows. (source)

Palesa used the runways at the Fashion Shows as a platform to not only walk the models in her designs but also make the models carry a message of concern on important social issues to the general public. For example, at the SA Fashion Week 2015, Palesa had her models wear her designs with ‘Boko Halaal’ printed on the tops and also carry placards as a sign of concern for and support to the families of the victims of Boko Haram tragedy in which some 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted and the bomb blast incidents killing hundreds by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram. She stated that her act of highlighting the issues on the ramps wasn’t a ‘protest’ but a ‘process of healing’!


Singer Lira, the multi-platinum selling and an eight times South African Music Award winner, known as the ‘Beyonce of Africa’, loves to wear Palesa’s Mantsho along with other famous brands. Some of the other SA celebs that show themselves off in Mantsho are: Simphiwe Dana, the Xhosa singer and songwriter; Thandiswa Mazwai, former Bongo Maffin band member; and Kgomotso Matsunyane, the TV Talk Show fame.

Estifanos Berta-Samuel, the model, actor, dancer and wardrobe stylist from Ethiopia, said in an interview that he liked Mantsho by Palesa Mokubung, keeping her in par with Stoned Cherry of SA; Angela Dean from Los Angeles; Cucci; Michael Kors of USA and Issey Miyaki of Japan. (source; Ameyaw Debrah; August 2010, in Beauty & Fashion, Modern Ghana)


Ms Mokubung shows a good sense of brand marketing strategy. Her designs are found in stores in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Botswana, and sells them Online.

Palesa had a tieup with ‘Tie Weavers South Africa’, the well-known clothing and textile producers. The Tie Weavers SA sponsored fabric for her shows, which is very important and expensive, and, in return, Mokubung offered them her creativity and gave the company a good exposure in the market, calling it a ‘cultural collaboration’.

With a flair for pleasing people, Palesa Mokubung managed to get Umsombomvu Youth Fund (UYF), the fund aimed at creating a platform for job creation and skills development for SA’s young people, to sponsor her stall at the exhibition at the Sanlam South Africa Fashion Week: Spring/Summer Collection, 2008.

Mantsho was selected by Edgars, a fashion retailer, as part of their retailer’s Local Designer Initiative. Palesa worked and stayed with Edgars as a designer for three contracted years. (source)

Mantsho labels are sold at its own boutiques, other popular stores and online. Mantsho designs are sold through four online sources: Zando, a safe online shop; Edgars; and Spree, South Africa’s first online shop; and Burgundy Fly, an online shop with brick and mortar boutiques, too.


All through the time I spent on doing this write-up — visiting other websites that have articles on Palesa and watching videos in which Mantsho or Palesa is present on Youtube — I find Ms Mokubung’s marketing strategy appealing. However, I must confess, there is something missing; some important elements that are very crucial to the development of a fashion retailer are missing.

First of all, I noticed that Mantsho business website is not up to the standards. On the face of it, it looks all right, but once you get to the site, you are stuck there. Of course, it’s simple and clear – there the options like About, Events, Gallery, Stockists, and Contact on the left of the page, and when you click on any of them, a dropdown opens on the right side and you will see some relevant description. Good. But from there, you go nowhere, except in the case of Events where you have links to go and see those events in brief.

The Gallery option, which is very important, shows some models in Mantsho designs but that’s it. You are not given any information regarding any particular design, nor can you place an order or even just make an enquiry about that design then and there.

The Stockists option is drab; you are not redirected to their sites. You’ve got to approach their sites via google search, and once you reach their sites, you are at the mercy of the stores discretion; you don’t find what you want from Mantsho directly, but you are shown the latest arrivals from different brands, which certainly makes you either bounce or change your mind and go for some other designer. In a nutshell, you cannot place an order for any of the designs you find pleasing directly from Mantsho site or from its stockists sites; you have to wade through the display on the page to reach Mantsho design.

And the Contact option says ‘Get Socially in Touch’ with a simple contact form below; no business contact.

The logo looks colorful, but it is certainly not fit for a fashion designer of such repute. There is no charisma in the logo that we see in Palesa herself. The logo needs a facelift, and needs it pronto!

Palesa’s personal website is non-existent. No website of her own, nor does she do any blogging. She is found on Facebook, but, with only 3,916 friends, she does not have a strong presence there, either. (Photos Credit)

I don’t know how much conversion rate Mantsho brand enjoys, but my guess is that it is not up to the mark. Here we have a case of lack of content management; no persuasion of any sort. Customers are not inspired, and those who are inspired cannot get to the designs easily.

I dare say the PUNCH is missing! Nowhere in the entire material I have found on Mantsho or Palesa have I experienced a sense of motivation, inspiration or, at least, the urge to make an attempt to place an order. If I am wrong in this assessment, it means I have not got the required information that is pleasing to me. So, now you can imagine, the frustration a potential online customer, who is naturally in a hurry and prone to distraction, is subjected to when they can’t get to their destination with a click or two.   

I believe, when you are in a game, you have to play by the rules of that game. You can’t ask for time-out and play the game at the same time.

amina al jassim

Amina Al-Jassim: Covering Up Doesn’t Mean Can’t Show Off!

By Branding, Fashion Academy

Amina al-Jassim: one of the first Saudi female fashion designers.

Amina al-Jassim from Saudi Arabia is one of those designers who have made a name for herself by making designs that are modern in cut, yet pass the scrutiny of the conservatives.

“Modesty is not the opposite of fashion, and fashion is not about showing more of my body,” says Amina, the haute-couture abayas designer.

Amina al-Jassim graduated in Computer Science and Business Administration from the Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, USA. She started off her designing career in 1984 making designs for her retail store Dar Breesam. Gradually, with disciplined marketing strategy and dedication, she has gained reputation in Saudi and also in the Middle East and Europe.

‘Arab culture through fashion’ is Amina’s vision, and her mission is ‘to familiarize the international fashion industry with the spirit of Arabian Culture by designing clothes with a touch of Arabian and Eastern heritage’. She makes great efforts to strike a balance between old art and new technology.

She was on Lux Fashion Show in Beirut in 2003 and 2004, and was awarded the Best Arab Designer in Beirut in 2005. (Amina’s LinkedIn Profile)

Amina al-Jassim’s collections were on the first show of the opening day of the Sheila and Abaya Fashion event in Dubai Shopping Festival, 2008. Critics remarked Amina’s individuality was expressed through her innovative sheila, abaya and jellabiya designs that could be worn with ease and comfort. (source)

Amina’s designs are not just limited to Saudi or the Gulf; she has had her designs walk on the runways of international shows. At the Arabian Fashion Show, 6th April, 2009, held at the InterContinental Hotel in Park Lane, London, an even supported by the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, and formally opened by A-BCC Secretary General & CEO Dr. Afnan al-Shuaiby, Amina was among the other famed Arab designers like Abed Mahfouz from Lebanon, Rabia Z from the UAE, Samira Haddouchi from Morocco and Oman Kashoura from Jordan.

Models for Amina Al Jassim’s collection at Muscat Fashion Week 2011.

An Omani, Ibtesam Al Rahbi, said Amina’s designs were unusual with metallic turbans and hats that reminded them of the traditional Turkish fezzes at the three day fashion show in Sultanate of Oman in 2011. Though Amina models walked the ramp mostly in black, they also wore dresses in different colours and cuts, exposing a bit of them here and there. (Middle East’s Fashion Week by Stephanie Dahle, 2/23/2011 on Forbes)

Amina al-Jassim

“Fashion is a performative utterance: to do things with clothes that exhibit and establish trends.” — quotes Anne Hedge, American musician. (source)

In an article on Alwan for the Arts website, an organisation promoting the diverse cultures of the Middle East in New York and three-state metropolitan area by conducting art and fashion events, Amina Al-Jassim of Saudi Arabia and Hana Sadiq of Iraq are cited as good examples that showcase how rarely we find a designer who projects ‘cross cultural epistemology’ on to local heritage, quoting Joseph Massad’s sartorial analysis in “Colonial Effects”. (Events; “Performance: Hana Sadiq: Fashion in Performance”; Nov 16, 2011 – source)

Amina has about three stores in Saudi Arabia, has her designs in some high-end boutiques across the Middle East. Her designs are so popular that she was invited to clothe contestants on “The Gulf Star”, an equivalent of American Idol, on Dubai TV. (source)

There have been very few international events involving Arab culture and fashion without Al-Jassim’s designs. Amina al-Jassim’s models grace the ramps at most of the Fashion Show Weekend Events organised by Saverah, an event company in London, which now creates networking opportunities for Muslim communities in the UK, with its Saverah Events, Saverah TV and Saverah Magazine.

In 2014, Amina got ‘The Best Designer 2014’ in Saudi Arabia. She has had fashion shows and exhibitions in Beirut, London, Madrid, Rome and Morocco.

Watch some of the designs by Amina at the Saverah Fashion Weekend at the Global Peace & Unity Event, Excel London:

Manolo Blahnik: The Cobbler Who Made Shoes For The Cinderellas

Manolo Blahnik: The Cobbler Who Made Shoes For The Cinderellas

By Branding Strategy, Featured

This 72 year-old maestro in shoemaking is truly international in origins. Manolo Blahnik is as multi-cultural as he’s multilingual. Manolo has outlets and boutiques located in Athens, Dubai, Dublin, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Kuwait, Las Vegas, London, Madrid, New York, Seoul, Singapore and Stockholm, and online orders are accepted from and delivered to any corner of the world.

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