15 Sep 2014

Following her SAFW comeback, Phumeza Tontsi goes one-on-one with Brutally Black Couture’s Palesa Mokubung of MANTSHO. Born in Kroonstad in the Free State, Palesa Mokubung has been a designer since she can remember, as a result she studied clothing production at Vanderbijlpark Technical College.

When she finished her studies she started working in the Stoned Cherrie design studio, eventually becoming the company’s top designer but after three years she decided to spread her wings. In 2004, as a solo designer, she entered the South African Fashion Week and her designs created hype in the fashion industry, giving her the opportunity to participate in various shows around the world.

You have travelled all around the world, what have learned form these countries that has kept you going?

Yes I have travelled to many places and it’s a number of things that keep me going:

One, never travel with a low phone battery, never travel without Dollars in your pocket, and at least have sms roaming its cheap.

On a more serious note I have learnt to also lead my life as normally as possible especially when I’m away; I still wake up and check my emails, check in on my production at the studio, check in with my clients or on any projects we might be busy with then explore whatever country I’m in thoroughly during the day to be back at the hotel in the evening. I must have a good nights rest so I can have blissful bright beautiful days in which to explore.

Now I know that if I have eaten the local food, listened to live music, hung out with the locals learned a few new words, bought books, art, fabrics and jewellery, explored the markets, made some friends, met a few women and sold a few garments. I can go back home with yet another beautiful life experience and that’s all travelling is; beautiful life experiences.

You took a break from fashion week, why?

I took a break from Fashion Week for a number of different reasons and the major one for me was lack inspiration which was scary for someone as gifted as me. I had run out of inspiration, I wasn’t moved or shaken enough to create so I sat with my uninspired self and learned that I’m not always creative.

Sometime the dresses don’t come in dreams I don’t see shapes and figures and form at random moments no matter how hard I try. So I stopped trying and cut myself some slack. I was tired I guess, so I took a rest.

How hard was it to come back?

It wasn’t hard to come back. During the time I was on a break from fashion week I did a financial and retail mentorship programme for six months with Sanlam. This showed me something different about this industry and left me better inspired. So everything worked out – it always does.

You’re known for the ‘brutally black couture’, apart from yourself who else has made creation of Mantsho a success?

Definitely my mother and my brother for telling me I was the best ever since I can remember. My staff, my clients, my mentors, media publications, friends, neighbours, all the models who’ve given their all on the ramp, students who follow and sing my praises, anyone who’s ever thought I was talented and God for putting this ever shinning star above my head – I’m really gratefull for that.

Given a chance to collaborate with any designer in the world who would it be and why?

Let me first work with Gwen Stefani because I have a crush on her!

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