The Botswanan trendsetters you’ll soon be following – CNN International

(CNN)“Fashion is meant to express, not to impress.” This is the mantra of Tsholo Dikobe, one half of Botswanan style duo GaTsh Fros. Dikobe and her best friend and business partner Gaone Mothibi are shaping the future of Botswana’s emerging fashion industry. A future that is very bright indeed.

Having met at nursery school, then again at the University of Botswana, the pair bonded over their love of daring color and wacky prints — before realizing their shared vision was something special. In 2011 they founded fashion brand GaTsh Fros — a combination of their names and a nod to their beloved Afro hairstyles.

The young women’s eclectic yet glamorous aesthetic has won them Africa London Fashion Week 2014’s Innovative Designer of the Year award, while their style column in Botswanan newspaper The Voice has helped bring emerging Tswana fashion talents to international attention.

They are in the process of launching a fashion magazine — a “Botswanan Vogue” — to steer the nation’s fashion-forward.

African Voices asked the stylish soulmates how Botswana inspires them and what they think every woman should have in her wardrobe.

What’s the inspiration behind your creations?

    Tsholo: It’s what we could term a Botswana fashion staple and cultural token, the Mogagolwane blanket. It’s an integral part of Tswana traditional culture — it is given to a person at important stages of their life. The blanket inspired the need to make considerable design strides in interpreting Botswana’s past, present and future into fashion, while giving a little nostalgia to a new generation.

    Describe the 21st century Botswanan woman

    Tsholo: She has a deeply rooted poise and elegance yet also thirsts for knowledge.

    Gaone: A 21st-century Botswanan woman has inner grace. She blooms where she is planted and inspires others to discover beauty without vanity. She does her work with joy and confidence and is able to balance family and work. A Botswanan woman takes pride in how she looks, but education is the foundation by which she lives.

    What’s the one must-have item in every woman’s closet?

    Tsholo: A perfectly tailored blazer. It turns an outfit into a powerful statement.

    Gaone: A white shirt. It looks good at whatever age, gives a clean look, and also brightens any color combination.

    What makes a trendsetter?

    Tsholo: The ability to interpret and reinvent fashion nostalgia in a way that speaks to a mass conscience.

    Gaone: A trendsetter commands admiration and a sense of presence without having to say a word. A trendsetter also adds personality to power play with their style. I’d say they don’t dress just for the sake of covering their body, they feel proud in their own skin and cause envy without even trying.

    What’s your favorite fashion invention of all time?

    Tsholo: A woman’s suit and fiery red lipstick.

    Gaone: Flatforms (shoes), boyfriend jeans and a mini purse.

    Who are your style icons?

    Tsholo: Miroslava Duma (Russian fashion writer and entrepreneur), Elena Perminova (Russian supermodel) and Rihanna — she is a style chameleon and can recreate any fashion era she wants to with such grace. Erykah Badu and Solange, for their amazing individuality and minds.

    Gaone: I will always love Aaliyah’s style. I also love Janelle Monae, Rihanna, Jackie Burger (Former editor of ELLE South Africa) and Nhlanhla Nciza (Zimbabwean singer-songwriter). Oh I love Chris Brown too, for his style!

    What are your favorite brands, designers or bloggers?

    Tsholo: For brands, I like KISUA, Topshop, Dior, Bulgari, Michael Kors, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs.

    For designers — Balmain, Vera Wang, Alexander McQueen, Charlie le Mindu, Nicholas Kirkwood, Mimi Plange and Tata Naka. In African designers; Sindiso Khmalo, Laduma Ngxokolo and Celfie from South Africa; Lebang Setso and African Lace from Botswana and Ituen Basi from Nigeria.

    Bloggers — Honestly WTF, Street peeper, The Sartorialist and Afro Punk.

    Gaone: Brands — H&M, Topshop, Forever New, Forever Young, Mango, Banana Republic, Zara and Accessorize, to name a few.

    Designers — From South Africa, Laduma Ngxokolo, OATH, David Tlale and Craig Jacobs (Fundudzi); from Botswana, Aobakwe Molosiwa (Gilded Sands) and Botho Chalebgwa (Botocy).

    What role does being from Botswana or Africa play in your creative process?

    Tsholo: Our designs begin with Botswana. We cannot begin to tell our fashion story without first identifying this mogagolwane blanket that is widely regarded as a cultural token and forms an important part of who we are as Batswana. It’s from Africa’s diverse and rich culture that modern African fashion is influenced. Africa’s radiance, color and vibrancy comes through in whatever we do — be it styling, fashion blogging or even designing.

    Gaone: Africa is a source of inspiration. Being in Botswana and Africa gives you a chance to dream bigger, work harder and strive to make things happen. It instils a sense of perseverance to work even harder because things just don’t come as easy, especially to a Motswana in a landlocked country.

    Who would be at your ultimate dinner party?

    Tsholo: Anna Wintour, Victoria Beckham, Anthony Hopkins, Meryl Streep, Bill Gates, Nasir Jones, The Foreign Exchange (hip hop/R&B artists). Unfortunately I would have loved for the first President of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama, Lebo Mathosa (South African singer) and Michael Jackson to be there — but they can’t.

    Gaone: My family first, then our late President Sir Seretse Khama, Ian Khama (current President of Botswana), Oprah Winfrey and President Obama.

    What’s the best thing about what you do now?

    Tsholo: The opportunity to travel and be a global citizen through fashion is fulfilling. I mean, you don a kimono and instantly you’re transported to Japan! The language and symbols of fashion are a way of life — every day is unique and that’s what makes it interesting.

    Gaone: We live in a contemporary culture where the custom of a blue collar job is not a first priority. Styling, designing and fashion writing allows me to be myself. We share and learn from each other and the people we work with. It’s that essential building block that lays the foundations to inspire the youth to tap into what they really love and not just settle for anything. Fashion is who we are.

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