Last week, H&M announced that the global retailer would-be collaborating with their first African designer, Palesa Mokubung. And today, the collection drops online and H&M stores across the country. While the retail store is known for providing trendy affordable clothing, H&M has collaborated with luxe fashion houses like Alexander Wang and Balmain. However, this is the first time the company has stepped outside of their grand collabs and worked with an independent designer from South Africa.

Bringing a vibrant taste of Africa to mainstream fashion, the H&M x Mantsho collection features modern, edgy designs created for the everyday woman. “Since the announcement, we have been very busy and Mantsho is now recognized as an international brand, said Mokubung.” The South African designer has been a major name in Africa by making unique ready-to-wear garments for other fashion outlets however, this the first time she is being recognized as an international designer. “I’ve known this woman and her work for the past couple of years and how she’s always remained true to her DNA,” said Nomzamo Mbatha, Goodwill and H&M Ambassador. “And let me tell you, everybody on the continent knows you cannot do a kimono-like Mantsho.”

“The South African fashion scene is effortless. It’s fashion-forward. Everybody always looks so good without effort,” said Mbatha.

Shop H&M x Mantsho here.

Mbatha who is also a South African native, has been a close friend of the Mantsho brand and dominant fashion maven and activist for her community. “The South African fashion scene is effortless. It’s fashion-forward. Everybody always looks so good without effort,” said Mbatha. “We are called the rainbow nation in the world because of that. Everybody’s so diverse in their fashion sense and you can literally get the European feel, but with a touch of African. It’s always just so effortless, contemporary, and fashion-forward.”

We got a chance to chat with Mokubung about spearheading the first-ever South African H&M collaboration, read below.

ESSENCE: What can we expect from this collaboration?

Mokubung: This collection comprises of all the pieces I love and that have been popular with my customers. It also includes four exciting new prints that were created just for H&M. The accessories are the cherry on top with pops of color coming through the earrings, shoes, and bags. The collection has a global appeal but with a strong South African design influence.

ESSENCE: What does it mean to you to collab with such a huge retailer and being a South African designer?

Mokubung: Because I have my own store and have been in the industry for a long time, making unique ready-to-wear garments for boutiques and other fashion outlets come naturally to me. I understand the mind of the customer and their spending habits, so I decided to amend the fabrics a little to suit the H&M customer’s needs. I still went all out and created my own prints – that’s what Mantsho is about. It’s exciting and for the first time, I had the opportunity to create an accessory line.

Shop H&M x Mantsho here.

ESSENCE: How has your personal brand grown since the announcement?

Mokubung: Since the announcement, we have been very busy and Mantsho is now recognized as an international brand. On social media, our following has grown significantly. We have also made more sales and we have more traffic in the store, the privilege of being invited to dress Miss South Africa 2019 contestants, and more is still coming.

ESSENCE: Who is this collection for?

Mokubung: The collection is for and influenced by the life of the modern African woman. I define her style as bold, confident, and carefree with comfort at her core.

“This is a celebration of their beauty as well as the vibrancy and diversity of the African aesthetic, its textures, and colors,” said Mokubung.

ESSENCE: What was the creative direction behind this collaboration?

Mokubung: This collaboration is expressive of my passion for contemporary African culture. Incorporating woven fabrics, the collection transforms African materials into modern and edgy designs. A Mantsho garment can be identified by three distinct elements – its confident and effortless silhouette, structure, and quirkiness. The collection also showcases my knowledge of shape. Shape is a big element in my design ethos as I believe that it restores a woman’s confidence.

ESSENCE: Explain the feeling of now being able to see your designs with H&M come to life?

Mokubung: It’s both humbling and exhilarating, a testament of hard work. I am very proud to share this collection with women across the world. This is a celebration of their beauty as well as the vibrancy and diversity of the African aesthetic, its textures, and colors.

Shop H&M x Mantsho here.

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