Having graduated from the University of Botswana with a degree in political science, Mothusi Lesolle is not your average fashion designer.
However, his name is synonymous with fashion in Botswana.
Lesolle initially entered the glamorous industry as a stylist and has since risen through the ranks to become an internationally acclaimed fashion designer.
His unique creations have been showcased throughout Africa, as well as the United States.
Voice Reporter Tshepo Maphanyane caught up with the iZaura fashion label founder to dissect his impressive career to date.
1. Why did you study Political Science?
Eish, you know how these things go. I honestly had no idea what I wished to study.
I just knew I needed to get into University, qualify and get a job. I thought the course was respectable.
2. So fashion was not your first passion?
Oh no, fashion has always been in me. I just didn’t consider it to be a career one could follow.
Let us be real, most of us were raised in homes where our parents’ expectations were for us to be lawyers, engineers or work in a bank or something like that.
But as it turns out, my dear mother was actually extremely supportive of my decision to venture into fashion.
She was not surprised by my choice and actually said she had always known that day would come.
3. Really, how so?
As a child I used to love sketching designs and was completely obsessed with clothes.
I loved the feel of different fabrics and I would fantasise about creating incredible pieces of clothing.
I knew I was different and destined for great things but it takes some discovering of oneself to truly follow one’s path.
4. You finally quit your job at a leading insurance company to pursue your passion. How did you adjust?
It was hard. Being on the streets, as many refer to it, is not for the fainthearted. It takes guts and a special kind of person to do it.
You literally start from scratch. It’s a humbling experience. It helped that my family was extremely supportive. My mother just said, ‘You will eat what I eat’.
There were many times I thought I was going to throw in the towel, especially when there was no business.
One’s financial commitments don’t stop because you don’t have money. Bills pile up and life goes on.
So yes there were a lot of sacrifices along the way. At some point I considered deserting the dream and crawling back to seeking employment.
5. What kept you going?
I wish I could offer a philosophical answer but truth be told, there were small wins along the way that helped keep me motivated.
I also must pay gratitude to my mentor and good friend, fashion designer extraordinaire Mpho Kuaho. When I was wet behind the ears, she took me in and showed me the ropes.
I assisted her with the business side of things and in turn she taught me invaluable lessons about the fashion industry.
It helped that I was willing to learn – a quality that is rare with a lot of younger people! The fashion industry, like other professional industries, has many facets.
One needs to be focused and willing to go through the steps.
6. You must be ecstatic that your design was recently picked to be displayed at the iconic Macy’s at the Metro Centre in Washington DC.
I have no words to describe my feelings. There have been moments I felt surely there is no greater feeling than this.
When I was featured on CNN’s African Voices last year, I thought I had reached my peak and I had nothing else I could offer to surpass that.
Especially having had other success including my involvement with Debeers shining light jewellery awards, to humbling feedback from established designers locally and regionally, to this latest honour, it’s truly remarkable!
7. How did you get to find out about this Global Fashion Celebration opportunity?
Two years ago I visited the US to showcase at the Southern African Fashion show organised by the Botswana Embassy in the US.
I cultivated relations with the office and this paid off. I not only got to learn extensively about the industry but also got to appreciate how far we still are in reaching those world standards.
It was mind blowing and certainly gave me a push to see and work beyond expectation.
I don’t sleep trying to perfect my art. When the opportunity came to participate in this campaign, I gave it my all.
Interestingly, or rather disappointingly, though the call was to all designers only a handful managed to satisfactorily meet the criteria and make submissions.
In the end, fifteen designs were chosen from designers across the globe and one of those is ‘MOTLALEPULA’ – my take on capturing the design brief.
8. Why that particular design?
I wanted to tell a story.
It was important to me to offer something fresh and unfamiliar in that market but close to home.
Leteise as our traditional fabric is proudly worn at all dignified occasions and certainly worn in celebration of one’s femininity.
It is intertwined in the Setswana culture.
I chose the blue print to signify the importance of water in Botswana.
Being semi arid, rain is revered hence the chant of rain often in speech.
The mermaid silhouette was also used to capture the look and feel of the flow of water.
9. What advice do you have for upcoming designers?
Be authentic and stay true to your artistic disposition.
However, recognise that collaboration can help in building and maintaining brands.
As designers we need to move away from going it alone.
Fashion shows should not just be restricted to showcasing but be viewed as beneficial networking platforms to grow our entities.
Take advantage of these and connect with other designers and key stakeholders with an interest in this booming industry.
Business has nothing to do with friendship. Don’t have expectations and work hard.
We need to take advantage of all the resources at our disposal.
I must commend the government for taking an initiative in nurturing the industry.
Of course there is room to do better and stream lining the support offered so as to be inclusive and relevant but we must recognise the efforts made.
Let us create network chains and ensure our brands thrive beyond our borders.
10. Who do you consider as a style icon locally?
Oh my! That’s tough but I really love people that dress up and one woman I admire in this regard is Linah Mohohlo.
She has presence and power that truly makes whatever she wears perfect. She gives other women a run for their money with her impeccable style.
One day I would love to get the unique chance to dress her.
11. What items are a must in one’s wardrobe?
Pearls are versatile accessories that can transform any outfit into a timeless look.
They truly upgrade one’s level of sophistication, whether in jeans or a dress.
Every man must own a proper, well fitted jacket or blazer.
It can be dressed up or down to suit any occasion.
Then everyone must own at least one brooch. They are unisex and can convert and upgrade ones look.
12. Having accomplished this much in a relatively short time, what can you say would earn you the feeling ‘of having arrived’?
Hmmm….. I fancy the idea of iZaura one day being in stores in the fashion capitals of the world.
And with the ambitious plans I have for the label, it’s only a matter of time.