Meet Tshegofatso Maotoe, a young fashion designer and founder of Tenacious Soul, who expresses passion through creating garments for women in all sizes who aren't afraid to enhance their individual style. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, she infuses African prints with vintage glam is breathtakingly genius!
Who is Tshegofatso and how did she come to marry Tenacious Soul, the brand?
I'm a 25-year-old creative girl from Mabopane in Pretoria. I'm a fashion lover and designer, I think of myself as a hungry entrepreneur and an aspiring business woman. Tenacious Soul was born three years ago in 2010, in my residence room at the University of Johannesburg. She's my first love. I started with making matric dance gowns as well as end-year function dresses. The demand grew by the day until I decided to build a brand out this passion for fashion. That's when Tenacious Soul emerged.
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Please describe your brand in a few words.
It is a brand that seeks to bring out the beauty out of what is seen as ugly or inadequate.
Why do you what you do?
Fashion is often seen as a shallow industry, but to me its more than that. I do it to brand and build an individual. To give them a platform for expression. I also believe that Fashion is the biggest strategy to improve and represent Africa globally, I'm a contributor to that.
Tenacious Soul creates chic and vintage inspired pieces with a pungent affection for African prints. What inspired this move?
In my observation, vintage lives to tell a story, there's a certain depth and art to it, it's a classical trend that never dies and the African print is a trademark for identity. Most South African designers have lost that mark -- they draw from the wells of other nations and that's not wrong but what happened celebrating us. So we as a brand have decided to be 'On Trend and African'.
As a fairly young label, what marketing strategies do you have in place for your brand?
Social media. We have a website, Facebook page, Twitter and a blog. We also have a face (spokesperson), she will be wearing and marketing our designs at various events she attends. For the future, we are currently working on getting a celebrity ambassador who fits the brand by the end of 2013. We are also looking at catering for plus-sized models, there's a huge gap in the market. We believe by filling this gap we will be changing lives and being different from the route other designers are taking.
What are your views on the African Fashion landscape?
Africa has so much to draw from, what we need is the confidence to enhance and build on what we have. There's a movement at the moment called 'Re-Branding Africa'. And as I said I believe that Fashion is the biggest bait for that, if platforms like AFI (Africa Fashion International) by Precious Motsepe are used to the fullest we could have luxurious fashion brands that qualify to compete on a global scale. Fashion will package Africa in a proper manner. Not only will we young designers be growing but we will also be attracting investors into Africa which will eventually improve economical issues.
You're currently working on a plus-size collection. Why is it important for the brand to cater to a luscious woman?
Our brand breaks "society's law of beauty." We said we bring out the beauty out of what is seen as inadequate and that is exactly what we doing through this range. Everybody is beautiful.
If I had a magic wand to bring a dream fashion collaboration to manifestation, who would it be with?
I think the late Alexander McQueen. Our style are completely different but what I loved about him is that he broke the rules. He experimented and took the biggest risks in fashion. He proved that fashion is art. And yes we shared the same principle of bringing the beauty out of the ugly.
Is there any cause that is dear to your heart?
Right now, I'd say empowering the woman of Africa, encouraging them to stand up and open that business,stand up and apply for that job,stand up and learn those craft skills. They are the doorway to the wealth of this continent.
Not to sound like Steve Harvey but what are your short and long term goals for the business?
There's a lot but I'll give you one of each:
Short term: I'd say to showcase at Joburg Fashion Week (Part of Africa Fashion International) in 2014.
Long term: To be one of the young business women who helped solve the unemployment issues of South Africa and Africa as a whole, by doing what I love.
How do you market your brand and make sure its accessible to a global market?
Website, twitter, Facebook and through bloggers.
Where can we find your designs?
Our website: www.tenacioussoul.co.za and Facebook: Tenacious Soul, and at Twitter: @TenaciousFash
Please share with us anything you might want to add that I haven't touched on.
Anyone can start a clothing line but not everyone is a fashion designer.
By: Jesica Colbyn
Photography courtesy of Clivert Qoolerbox Thibela