8 September 2017

The Plus Conversations

mobu by melo, thabetha dress, sotho dresses, Seilatsatsi

A CONVERSATION WITH THE DESIGNER OF SOUTH AFRICAN PLUS SIZE BRAND, MOBU BY MELO

You know how things go around here. I'm always talking about the million drafts I have and feeling bad about not writing. One such draft which has been chasing me for months in the idea I had for a series of interviews called "The Plus Conversations," which would see me expanding my "The Plus" category from just my fat girl feels to others' thoughts and experiences.
There are fat people I encounter on the internet and in real life whose fat positivity is something I want to talk about and archive. Over and over. But I just hadn't gotten around to sending the emails and introducing myself and want I want to do. Until Kgomotso Neto Tleane, photographer, black genius, shared one of his latest shoots. For plus size brand, Mobu by Melo, Kgomotso Neto shot five beautiful women in incredible garments. The women, the clothes and, importantly, the location, made me stop. And finally send that email.

Melo Mosase, the designer and owner of Mobu by Melo, a clothing range aimed at the plus size customer into ankara print and other "traditional" wear is my first interview for The Plus Conversations. I sent some questions about going from a plus size shopper to a plus size designer and centering fat women. below, she answers.


mobu by melo, thabetha dress, Seilatsatsi, mamello mosase,


Tell me about yourself and the journey you have travelled to get Mobu by Melo here.

I have always been a creative and a revolutionary. Born to a mother and father who loved beautiful clothing and raised by a grandmother who used her hands to make amazing clothes. Mobu by Melo was born after I lost my mother in January 2014. Fresh out of university with no job, I was back home in the village. During this time I spent a lot of my days with my father in his garden, watching him mourn the loss of his only ever lover.  He taught me about soil as God and her gifts. That’s when I decided to take all these teachings and elements and manifest them to a tangible medium that I can share and also teach with.



How have your experiences as a plus size woman inspired Mobu by Melo?
It was the obvious struggle to get clothing that fits in the shops. But as time passed and the industry started catering for this need, I realised that as much as plus size clothing was being made, it still was not catering for the woman that fully identifies as African and the amount of quality and creativity invested in these clothes was just appalling, to be honest. So I took it upon myself to address these issues.


Why does the plus size customer matter to you and how does that inform the way you do business?

What society has coined “plus size” is the normal African body that has been made to seem alien on its home ground! This baffles me all the time. Real people matter to me, I am them and this is all I needed to establish precisely who I am catering for.

mobu by melo, melo mosase, nomalifromsoweto, plus size blogger


mobu by melo, south african plus size designer


mobu by melo, plus size ankara designs,


Talk to me more about the current range, which has recently had its lookbook go viral.
The range, Seilatsatsi, which means mother of light and fire in Sesotho, was originally created as part of an exhibition called Women and Art by the brothers who have a  production company His and Hers jams. The name comes from an old Basotho folktale about a young big beautiful woman that was not allowed to go out into the sun, but one day she did and it was glorious. 

My reference point for the range was the Thebetha dress worn by Basotho women. It’s very rare; I have always been intrigued by it and the women that wore it growing up. The design process is so intricate and crafty. Its meaning in the Basotho culture resonated deep with me and  I wanted to share this beauty with everyone. After conceptualising the designs of the garments and execution for the exhibition, I decided that I wanted to document the garments and exhibition itself into a lookbook. To be honest, I didn’t expect the response it got from the public and that’s truly humbling.

I have a very old draft from earlier in the year about the absence of actually and visibly fat women in "plus size" fashion in this country. Why did you choose visibly fat and not size 40 women to be in the lookbook?
I was proving a point. 

Tell me more about the models! They are stunning, where did you find them?
The models were first clients, who grew to become treasured friends. We share the same sentiments when it comes to how the fashion industry perceives plus size women, how plus size women are misrepresented and objectified and how plus size models not regarded as professional models. I guess that’s why they could portray, I’ll even go as far as saying they embodied the concept fully. The time for crying and complaining about it over tea and cake was over, it was time to act because no one was going to do it for us; the way we wanted it to be done.
Two of my models Khanyisa and Awande are lawyers that work in Human resources and The Public protector; Thandanani and Tuwelo have been plus size models for some time now and are in banking and engineering respectively. Lerato studied and is practicing media and has a blog called “From a Curvy Lady”. We all have known each other for a while now and I just found it fitting that they embody Seilatsatsi.

mobu by melo, kgomotso neto photography,plus size ankara dresses

I came across the shoot by way of Kgomotso Neto, whose work I revere. What was the process with this lookbook? Did you have the idea of what you wanted to do or did you both brainstorm to get to this point?
I’m blessed to call Kgomotso a friend of many years now and I respect him as an individual and his work immensely. The idea for this lookbook hit me when I went to Daveyton with the brothers of His and Hers Jams to view the space for my exhibition. I am a village girl, but I have always been intrigued by township history and culture. When I got to Daveyton I swear I had a creative orgasm! The houses and people were still so original but beautiful. That’s how I decided to capture the story of matchbox houses in this shoot and who better to do it than the great Neto?
I also enlisted the help of Lethabo Ngakane from Kaffein Magazine with creative direction, and the brother murdered the business so effortlessly. It was an emotional shoot, it was literally a revolution throughout but we all understood this and we did what we had to do to tell different, but equally important stories.
Back to you. What's your view on body image and, again, how does that inform the work you do at Mobu by Melo?
Love the work of your ancestors beybz! A whole entire human being does not just fall from the heavens like manna. Your people had to put in work for you to come about, understand and realize this…and put all the respect on that shit. You can quote me.
If you could dress any plus size woman, who would it be?
My late Mother and the late Charlotte Maxeke, the rest are still alive and I’m dressing one of them this afternoon.
plus size ankara designs, south african plus size designer, mobu by melo, thabetha dress,

black girl magic, plus size african dresses, mobu by melo, Seilatsatsi, thabetha dress,

LOOKBOOK CREDITS:
Designs, hair and headwraps: Melo Mosase of Mobu by Melo
Models (HIRE THEM): Thandanani Maluleke, Tuelo Wesi, Khanyi Fiona, Awande and Lerato
Makeup: Khanyi Fiona
Photographer: Kgomotso Neto Tleane
Art Director: Lethabo Ngakane
Exhibition: His and Hers Jams -- Walkfresh, Daveyton

Get in touch with Melo to chat all things Mobu by Melo 
Phone number: 0646476874
Facebook: Mobu by Melo
Instagram: @mobu_by_melo

This lookbook is not just a photoshoot, it's an experience. And from the sounds of houw Melo runs Mobu by Melo, so is the brand!


Post a Comment

Thank you for reading.

@nomalifromsoweto

© Nomali from Soweto. Design by FCD.