Expanding her business footprint, accomplished fashion designer, Thabiso Dibeela has been spreading her wings in Africa and beyond.
So far she the up and coming fashion guru has travelled to China, Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia to showcase at fashion weeks in those countries, making her the first Motswana designer to be featured in the venerated events in the African fashion cities.
“We have a small population in Botswana hence the need to pursue other markets,” says the excited Dibeela.
That notwithstanding it is time that the ThabieD brand attains continental and international exposure because it is one of the best fashion brands to emerge from this country.
Further explaining her recent travels Dibeela says, “The same way we consume and wear brands from other places, Botswana brands are deserving and of such high quality that they should be known out there and not just in Botswana by Batswana.”
Explaining some of the challenges faced by designers in Botswana, Dibeela says the very fabrics used are imported and locally sold by foreign material shop owners who put such mark ups that make it difficult for local designers to sell at profitable margins.
To address this challenge, on her recent trip to China in preparation for the fashion week Dibeela explored the possibility of getting into the material supply side of business.
“As Batswana we need to own our businesses fully and not be at the mercy of others. China was an eye opener. I was in awe from the minute I landed. I couldn’t believe how advanced everything was. My mission to explore was overwhelming. But it was a great experience, which I believe will have a positive impact on my work. It was also a bonus to be exposed to a great variety in terms of all things fashion related. It assisted in cultivating ideas of how to infuse what we have in Botswana with what is out there,” she explains.
Sharing her inspiration for the Nigerian showcase, Dibeela says; “I had Botswana in mind. My Botswana, my pride. Besides athletes we have our beef and diamonds yet it is not everyone that knows this. I wanted to tell the story of Botswana therefore I went with the blue, black and white with a hint of leteise theme. I also featured the zebra. I wanted to invite the audience to Botswana through the collection.”
For Ghana, which was Dibeela’s second trip having showcased at the Ghana fashion week last year, the designer opted for an attractive spring collection.
Mellow colours and flirty flowy designs characterized the collection. “It was a reminder of my childhood and how fascinated I have always been with beautiful clothes and the promise to one day be a pioneer in this industry.”
Her background therefore set the backdrop for the theme; ‘Mmamotse o bonwa mmantlwaneng.’
Her last act in Lusaka, Zambia was a showcase of Botswana as well. “We must never be shy to boast of our beauty and its rich resources.” she proudly quips.
Although Dibeela speaks highly of her recent conquests and discoveries, she readily admits to the endless challenges she and fellow creatives face.
In addition to spending time putting together the beautiful collections for the events, there’s always the headache of the actual travel and marketing budget.
“Most of us operate with a limited workforce and can hardly afford to engage other specialty service providers so we do a lot on our own. It is not the ideal situation and this causes strain and takes toil on me. It is disheartening to experience and witness the struggle of creatives. We put in the work and repeatedly fly the Botswana flag high but still our businesses are not necessarily booming. It is a constant struggle that one needs to deal with,” she quips, adding that because of such difficulties, many have closed shop, as it can be a very expensive undertaking.
She however says for her, quitting is not an option. “Quitting has never been an option for me even when the going gets tough. I did not get into fashion by mistake. It is part of my DNA,” she says with a hearty laugh.
To survive in the cutthroat industry Dibeela advises that one must decide on their path and the investment they need to make to grow their business and stick with it.
“No one is going to do it for you. Be fearless and be ready to explore the unknown. However, make sure to have fun while at it. We are capable as Batswana; we just now need to claim our position in the world,” she says
In addition to making exquisite garments for a discerning clientele, Dibeela says she is eyeing a place as a producer in the manufacturing sector.
“Watch this space, it is definitely in the cards, ” she notes.