Finally free from the strong grasp of the leteisi (German print), Botswana designers are beginning to forge a new creative aesthetic that is reflective of the modern Motswana’s experiences and taste, with youth-led design houses leading the pack.
Birthed in the tremulous year that was 2020 by creative entrepreneur Sabine Matsheka, Maru is a fashion brand that places the elements of Botswana’s unique nature at the centre of its designs. The brand seeks to envision the modern Motswana woman, who before her modernity too, was engorged by the luxury of natural fibres, paid attention to detail and only accepted fine quality as the standard.
Through a lightly carved style from clean lines, simple form and lush fabric, Maru is about the resurgence of the Motswana woman’s grace. The result is a small range of bespoke pieces with a unique textile-led design. Their appeal lies in the subtlety of the texture, a timeless aesthetic and materials of lasting quality.
High-end ethical global fashion is set for steady growth as discerning consumers become increasingly demanding regarding the sustainability of what they wear. Maru clearly understood this, and creates clothes that are not influenced by seasons or trends, and can be worn for any occasion. Thus, Matsheka’s creations are ultimately sublimated into a form of artistic expression.
Creating such a narrative and re-establishing her own identity as a Motswana woman is of great importance to Matsheka whose background is vested in development of the African region. “I have travelled awide and lived afar,” says Matsheka. “In my years of study I have obtained a Masters degree at London School of Economics and Political Science following which I worked in the non-profit space and developed a drive to pioneer digital access across the continent.”
Maru is far more than just a collection of fashionable garments to Matsheka. She describes its depth of purpose being to carve a path towards an active textile and manufacturing industry in Botswana where fashion entrepreneurs are combatively intersectional in their approach. Envisaging this utopia is the very reason Matsheka was adamant Maru operate as a sustainable business.
Matsheka’s determination for Maru to be sustainable is an intersecting point of its vision – to be kind to the land that we have been given and to give back to it. However, sustainable practice in a growing economy is no easy feat. Belonging to a nation of just over 2 million people where our manufacturing and the textile industry is still small but growing, oftentimes Botswana designers are reliant on neighbouring countries such as South Africa, soliciting their products. Maru proudly utilises all its local production in Botswana. The brand also practices 100 percent Black employment, from craftspeople to delivery partners, and where at all possible, Black women.
It is very seldom that a brand that has been in inception for under a year can create such a distinct space for itself. Highly regarded for her sleek creations and sharp tailoring, Matsheka believes that “fashion is about beauty and that the story behind fashion can be equally beautiful”.
Maru recently released its Autumn/Winter 2021 collection, which is inspired by the numerous salt pans that dot our beautiful country, its people and their surrounds. The collection draws attention to the massive Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, which is one of the largest in the world, formed from an ancient lake and is home to the San, the baobab and flamingos.
Says Matsheka about the new collection: “All our garments are made to be worn everywhere. Every piece of Maru is an ode to Setswana, with each garment given either a Setswana name or saying. The fabrics used to create this collection are all organic and have been carefully constructed by local craftspeople in cotton, rayon, silk and mohair. These natural luxury fabrics allow our bodies that carry garments and the earth to breathe. They are light and airy but lock heat inside for the cold season following simple structure in their lines.”
Maru’s mission includes encouraging localisation, growth of the black economy, digital engagement, welcoming tourism, women empowerment, sustainability and ethical-consumption.