…A new chapter in the history of southern African women’s fashion
By Linda Sparg
Used for everyday wear but also weddings and other traditional ceremonies, Seshoeshoe cloth used to be manufactured only in chocolate brown, blue and red, but over the past two decades, more and more new colours have been introduced.
Neil Cowie, owner of Cowie Trading, the largest wholesaler and distributor of Seshoeshoe throughout southern Africa, including Lesotho, says: “Although the older generation still prefers brown, red and blue, we are finding the younger generation loves the exciting new colours in original Seshoeshoe.”
So, if you’re planning a traditional wedding, you could make a splash with these bold new tones and be part of the new chapter in the history of southern African traditional dress.
Da Gama Textiles, the only manufacturer of genuine Seshoeshoe, is now blending turquoise and green with the brown Seshoeshoe. Besides the usual red and white designs, now there is red and orange.
Also, the company has introduced shocking pink and purple Seshoeshoe, which are proving extremely popular.
Da Gama Textiles marketing executive Helen Bester says: “In the 1990s, we introduced gold into the brown and blue designs.
“We had combined black with the red and white prior to 2004, but after this date, we introduced a greater variety of designs in black, red and white. Then, in March 2009, we introduced our Lollipop range, with shocking pink, purple and orange designs.”
In 2009, along came the Liquorice range, in which black was added to the pink, purple and orange, Bester says.
South African designers Bongiwe Walaza and Palesa Mokubung have given original s Seshoeshoe high fashion status with their innovative designs in the fabric. Their creations have graced the catwalks of various “Fashion Weeks” in South Africa. Walaza also made a splash at Fashion Business Angola late last year with dresses in chocolate and green and also red and orange original Seshoeshoe.
Founder of the Basotho nation, King Moshoeshoe 1, first wore an indigo-printed cloth in the early 1840s. The fabric gained popularity and became known as Seshoeshoe, later being adopted as the favoured costume of the Basotho. Now, about 170 years later, it is still a favourite in Lesotho – the only aspect that has changed is the increasing array of colours and designs.
“These bright new hues are perfect for light, airy summer dresses that beat the summer heat. So, if you’re sweltering at the moment and simply cannot find anything cool enough in your wardrobe, it might be a good time to have a seamstress whip-up a simple outfit in a jiffy.
“Beware of Seshoeshoe imitations though. Chinese and other textile manufacturers try to copy Seshoeshoe, but the fakes are not as good as the real thing. Original Seshoeshoe is 90cm wide as opposed to 150cm wide. All original Seshoeshoe has a Da Gama Textiles stamp on the reverse side of the fabric. Also, the cloth is starchy and can shrink slightly, so it must be washed prior to being sewn up.
Original Seshoeshoe is 100 percent cotton, so it is also a sure summer cooler, unlike the polycotton imitations,” says Bester.
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