#SAFW Designer Interview – Tshepo Mafokwane from Sober

Designer of fashion label Sober is planning to bring Africa to the runway, but in a way people aren’t used to. Read more on what the collection will be about at SA Fashion Week.

Tshepo Mafokwane designer of Sober at 2014 SA Fashion Week S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo.
Tshepo Mafokwane designer of Sober at 2014 SA Fashion Week S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo.

1) Can you tell us more about your fashion label and how it started?

I was selected at the top four designer “Inaugural Design Initiative” competition held at the Nederburg Estate Auction…that was Sobers’ debut, I was still employed in the head office a big retail chain at that stage. I later decided to leave to start a small studio where we can manufacture from. We began supplying a small consignment store in Campus Square and Rosebank (“Sowearto”) to test the market and then we grew from there.

2) Tell us about the defining moment in your career, when you decided to start your own label?

The defining moment was me coming to a decision to no longer make clothing I do not love. The idea of clients coming with “Red Carpet” celebrity images and asking me to duplicate for them…or just letting them take the lead and having me create what they desired (and not what appealed to me), no longer appealed to me. I simply stopped chasing money that way. I wanted to stay true to myself.

Sober at 2014 SA Fashion Week S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo.
Sober at 2014 SA Fashion Week S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo.

3) Who do you envisage in your clothing?

Ladies that are dynamic, intellectual, independent and love to be noticed.

4) What kind of preparations goes into fashion week?

Firstly I like to re-identify with my customer, try to encompass her mind-set, and come up with a concept and sketch designs. Come up with a colour-scheme, source fabrics, pattern-making, sampling, and completing the looks with ensembles i.e. shoes, make-up and hair.

Sober at 2014 SA Fashion Week S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo.
Sober at 2014 SA Fashion Week S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo.

5) What inspired this collection?

Winter 2015 collection is inspired by the modern-day Africans, we have named it T.I.A (This is Africa). I want to capture everything that is rich and precious about our heritage, but mainly I want to celebrate how we have evolved as Africans. I want to present our customer’s viewpoint about African Fashion. With all the advancements, in technology, politics, and social networking we see today, I feel that it has somehow changed us as Africans and I believe our fashion should follow suit.

This is a lady who is not ashamed of being African, but she wants to show it off in a way that is not too stereotyped, and could work in her wardrobe all the time and not only on occasions. I wanted to create an African look that is much more easy to commit to, for all of us…black, white or anyone who calls Africa home.

Sober at 2014 SA Fashion Week S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo.
Sober at 2014 SA Fashion Week S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo.

6) How would you define success for a South African fashion designer?

Success for any SA designer would be to have our own people choosing to purchase your brand over any other premium established imported brand or merchandise made in China. That is the ultimate, it’s an honour to have to make a sustainable living through serving your own people first.

Sober at 2014 SA Fashion Week S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo.
Sober at 2014 SA Fashion Week S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo.

7) Why do you think an event such as SAFW is important?

SAFW is a great launch-pad for designers to reach the masses, having their voice heard through showcasing, reaching and networking with buyers. It has become necessary to stay relevant and in-touch with the consumer and makes us more accessible in the market.

*Follow Sober on Facebook

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