All the way down to its name, Botshelo Molete’s Mekhukhu has upcycling, and environmental responsibility written in it.
At the heart of the brand is this notion of bringing together disparate pieces of the world to build something new and beautiful.
Mekhukhu inherently speaks to Gen-Z sensibilities, leading with effortlessly playful and girly house codes that are simultaneously soft and buoyant.
Molete, an AFI Fastrack 2023 finalist, points to Gen-Z as marking the beginning of a new era in fashion – one where consumers learn to question trends and hyper-consumerism and invest more in their personal style.
Ahead of Joburg Fashion Week 2023 – which was the final challenge for the 2023 cohort of the AFI Fastrack 2023 programme – Molete used her moodboard presentation to insightfully point out that, beyond being digitally and technologically native, the Gen Z audience is unified by its collective experience of transformative world events.
This gives them a sense of introspection, responsibility, priority when it comes to their lives outside of work, and a wardrobe that reflects that.
Mekhukhu already works to make their pieces adaptable, integrating small additions that make a world of difference to a traditional silhouette – emphatic collars; colourful bow details; puffy, architectural sleeves.
In this collection, Molete made it a point to integrate the essential elements of a capsule collection – clean lines, a restrained colour palette and simple silhouettes – to produce a collection that was timeless, ageless and wearable/adaptable, with a primarily red, white and black colour palette, with touches of powder blue.
In building her Joburg Fashion Week capsule collection, Mekhukhu introduces us to Thembi – a Johannesburg-based Junior Marketing Director for a leading sports brand. Given her dynamic job in fashion marketing, Thembi stays in tune with the zeitgeist by engaging with good art and design, attending gallery openings and fashion shows, and has her foot somewhat in the industry calendar.
Thembi is aware of sustainable discourse and how her buying power and fashion choices fit into the broader conversation.
But rather than shopping more to keep up with trends, Thembi’s goal is to meet the demands of her dynamic lifestyle by reducing the amount of time she spends getting dressed, retaining her personal style and self-expression in the process.
Mekhukhu's screenprinted t-shirt with red contrast ribbing is an everyday piece that Molete pairs with a gathered A-Line, mid-waist skirt in black taffeta. She elevates the ensemble with a pair of white, ruffled lace arm-sleeves – a broadly wearable accessory that adds a fantastical costume-like feel.
For Molete, what seems to have stood out about the brief was how a well-curated capsule collection is an excellent opportunity to approach fashion in a sustainable manner, allowing the buyer to be bold with a new and interchangeable wardrobe. She seemed attuned to the fact that the key philosophy is adaptability.
In this shifting landscape, Mekhukhu emerges as a brand that is not necessarily led by trends but has the potential to set a new curve and philosophy in South African womenswear.
As we move towards a more conscious approach to fashion consumption, Mekhukhu’s innovative, sustainable practice serves as an example for her fashion industry peers. As for the future of fashion, Molete's vision – actioning sustainability through adaptability – is one that has potential to shape the industry into a more responsible one.