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The original queen of fashion

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The original queen of fashion
90's IT GIRL: Ineeleng Kavindama

A cut above the rest!

That pretty much sums up Ineeleng Kavindama, whose meteoric rise in the fashion industry set Southern Africa alight in the 90’s.

At 44 Kavindama still captures the imagination with her stunning beauty, astute mind and radiant personality.

Asked about the secret of youth during a tour of her magnificent three-storied home, she lightheartedly quips, “You can say time stood still for me.”

Sharing the inspiration behind her house, which includes a home-cinema, she says, “I read a lot and have always been fascinated by modern architecture. Like fashion, architecture has its own influences depending on specific periods. In the 80s and 90s there was preference of the brick face and tile and nowadays options have evolved and there is so much creativity and choice. This allows for innovative designs and structures that capture individual tastes.”

Kavindama had seen her dream house design in a magazine and contacted the South African based architects to consult on her plans of building a house that mirrored what she had seen.

The original queen of fashion
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“I had the pleasure of working with the team and modifying the pictures to my tastes. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome though there are still a few touch ups before I can say ‘it is done’.”

The house signifies the many years she spent in showbiz, where entertaining and ‘over the top extravagance’ best suited the lifestyles of the young, free and rich personalities.

“It may be a life long left behind but I still have fond memories of it. Besides who doesn’t follow and love the Top Billing lifestyle of opulence.”

Though massive, the house, whose only other occupant is Kavindama’s daughter, has all the right fittings making it a comfortable space to live in.

In an era where many seek to be recognized and validated for the number of likes garnered from social media posts, Kavindama is comfortable with privately sharing her past life of glitz and glamour through mementos framed and put up in the entertainment section of her home.

“I have truly seen it all and done it all,” she says with a wide, genuine smile that would melt most men’s hearts.

At the tender age of 19, whilst studying for a fashion degree, Kavindama would hit the jackpot and be catapulted to stardom when she won the SA Fashion Designers Association Award soon after South Africa gained its independence.

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“The spotlight was on SA and there was a lot of coverage by the international media,” she recalls, with a twinkle in her eye.

This saw the Botswana lass interviewed by the likes of CNN and gracing many newspapers as the “It” girl.

“I had the unique opportunity of dressing some of SA’s biggest stars at the time and whilst their brands soared, I also got to share the fame as the go to designer. It was business and all entities valued the exchange and took advantage of this.”

She counts some of her memorable times as one of the pioneers of the Afro centric style and introducing street wear fashion in collaboration with artists such as TKZee and dressing Connie Ferguson for Generations.

She was definitely decades ahead of the times as these Afrocentric designs are only trending now.

“There were so many thrills in seeing one’s designs come to life and be a part of the booming industry. Interestingly, money was not the greatest motivator but rather seeing one’s creativity being embraced by the world.”

And then with a baby on tow, she left the bright lights of Jo’burg and headed back home.

“I was not inspired to continue designing and could not reconcile how I would raise my daughter as a single parent in that kind of environment,” she explains.

From her endorsement deals, that included Schweppes and Benson and Hedges among others, Kavindama had saved just enough money to settle back home.

“As my baby grew I knew I would need to provide for her but I was still not interested in going back to my first love.”

So when the then editor of the Guardian newspaper, Outsa Mokone approached Kavindama for a fashion column, she gladly accepted the challenge.

But as they say, all things come to an end and so did the column after a couple of years.

And then a friend introduced Kavindama to what would unexpectedly become her lifelong passion – the medical equipment supplies industry.

“Being a medical equipment agent is not just a job that pays the bills, but rather an important function that brings me close to those that require the services I provide. It is humbling to realise that through my contribution to the medical profession, lives can be saved. I visit hospitals and health care facilities and gain firsthand experience of the needs on the ground. It is sobering to deal with matters of life and death.”

The original queen of fashion
OPULENT: The entertainment area

Kavindama readily admits that it is not a walk in the park, as the industry is male dominated and cut throat.

“There are few women in this industry and one has to contend with competition from established brands, so it helps to have a thick skin and believe that you win some and lose some and carry on because it’s business after all.”

But then again Kavindama has always been one tough cookie. “I believe in new beginnings and the power of reinventing yourself,” she says

Concerning the local fashion scene she says she can’t emphasize enough the need for government to show financial support for upcoming designers whom she argues cannot reach full potential because of prohibiting costs of production.

“My advice to local fashion designers who wish to elevate their career to a commercial and global level would be for them to migrate to South Africa where the heart of the fashion industry is or risk staying relatively small in Botswana,” she concludes – and she should know, she’s done it all!