Hidden deep in the heart of Bluetown, down one of Francistown’s numerous unmaintained, crumbling streets, lie the headquarters of African Royalty Fashions.
It is an unlikely setting for one of the city’s more colourful enterprises.
Formed almost three years ago by 27-year-old Goitseone Tshimologo, African Royalty Fashions specialise in producing bright, hand-sewn outfits, boasting intricate, eye-catching designs and vibrant patterns.
The unique garments, which are currently only available on order, are ideal as wedding attire for bridesmaids and groomsmen.
It is a dull, grey, overcast Monday morning when Voice Money travel to Tshimologo’s Bluetown base – which also doubles as her home – to learn more about the fashion designer’s exciting venture.
With her striking, model-like good looks, quick smile and laidback, easy-going nature, the Mogapi native cuts an impressive figure.
Having attained twin diplomas from Botho University in Computing and its practices and Business Skills, fashion design would seem an improbable career path for Tshimologo.
However, her obsession with fashion becomes obvious as she enthusiastically opens up about her business.
“We started operating in March 2014 at Area W behind Caltex filling station before moving to our current premises last year,” explains the softly spoken designer, who also acts as a personal stylist to a number of local models.
‘‘Our clothing is only availed on request. We design for different individuals attending different occasions. 70 per cent of our work is mainly wedding attire while 20 per cent is personal individual orders. The final 10 per cent covers other services we offer, like material shopping assistance, clothing alterations, re-designing and decoration of furniture like sofas, beds, shoe racks and television stands,’’ continues Tshimologo.
Describing how her interest in fashion design originally developed, the former model said, “My inspiration came from different people and aspects. I lived my teenage years as a tomboy. At one point I found myself in a world of beauty contests and fashion shows. I then understood and embraced my femininity. I fell uncontrollably in love with clothing. Soon I was buying needles and re-designing my own clothes.”
Tshimologo is indebted to her colleague Austine Hasha who she describes as one of the best designers in town, for ‘teaching me everything’.
As well as Hasha, the African Royalty Fashion team includes two other talented young designers, Gorata Seitatolo and Lorato Sekonyo.
According to Tshimologo, in a busy month she makes up to P11, 000 after all expenses are paid – a figure she hope to improve on in 2017.
“Though I am faced with tough competition, in my industry your level of recognition depends on how well you satisfy your clients, how up-to-date you are with the latest trends, how good are you at meeting the clients’ deadlines and giving your clients value for their money and mostly how well you communicate with your clients. At African Royalty Fashions we consider these aspects at all times,” she reveals, adding that being based outside of Gaborone is also a challenge as the majority of events where she can showcase her creative talents are held in the capital.
Despite this, Tshimologo has successfully managed to market her business, with her designs being worn by models at a number of pageants held in the Ghetto.
“My favourite was Miss Independence Bot50 where we dressed 20 contestants with our youthful colourful African range. The event was photographed by King from Empire media house and covered by Botswana Television. Through their coverage, our clientele increased by 50 per cent,” reveals Tshimologo proudly.
“We have also designed for I Am Africa art exhibition where we showcased cultural influenced clothing – an event which placed us on a global market! We have as well worked with Thelma Harvere in all the Miss Francistown fashion shows,” she continues.
Tshimologo’s dream is to establish African Royalty Fashions as a household name over the next five years, and intends to start supplying local shops with her products soon.
The bubbly designer concluded the interview by urging the country’s unemployed youth to revert to Plan B if their Plan A is not working.
“If it means losing everything to start go ahead and lose it but do not lose yourself. Once you have started, work hard till you need no introduction – maintain your focus and momentum at all times,” advised the bubbly designer with her trademark smile.