Gaborone — She is a confident trend setter with eloquent sophistication in fashion. Every time she steps out of Parliament sessions, many stir with admiration and wonder where the Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Ms Botlogile Tshireletso gets her taste of fashion.
From her fascinator signature head gears, to the poised formal red and pink Failsworth and the Packable Chelsea Singwer hats, Mma Tshireletso as she is affectionately called, always turns heads in and out of the official office.
"I sometimes wonder where Mma Tshireletso keeps her clothes and hats. If this woman was to appear 365 consecutive days on television, definitely she would every single day show up in a different stunning outfit," quips a friend, just hours before this reporter tracked her down to take a peep inside her closet.
Love or hate her, whenever she appears in the public, she makes a fashion statement. Elegance is her middle name. During Parliament sessions, the 60 year old granny would appear exquisite in formal outfits and turn heads with a German print during a cultural celebration.
To complete her look, most of the time Mma Tshireletso adds a hat, which many believe takes guts and pizzazz to wear.
"Fa ke kgabile ke fa ke tsentse hutshe, ke rata thata tse di kgolwanyane. Le palo ya tsone ga ke e itse, mme tsone di feta masome a matlhano ka tse dingwe ke di beile kwa Mahalapye," she retorts.
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Her collection of hats composes of different African designs. In hierarchical order she explains that her best accessory is a hat followed by a handbag and lastly medium heeled shoes which she believes gives her confidence and a well-groomed look.
"Di room tsotlhe di tletse diaparo tsa gagwe," chips in her eldest grandson Game prior to taking a glimpse of her wardrobe.
Her nicely carved wooden closet with a length of approximately five metres boasts with an assortment of handbags, different shaped hats and neatly packed suits. On the next room, a closet of the same size is fully packed with an assortment of garments and accessories.
Interestingly in her bathroom, shoes are jam packed in boxes, a sign that her room is not spacious enough to accommodate her girly stuff. Clothes are packed according to categories, for example, German prints, African attires, suits, jackets, skirts or dresses.
Like any other girl, this granny who is always on the go picks the gear and its accessories for the next morning every evening. In addition, Mma Tshireletso who grew up at Thomadithotse in Mahalapye says during her gone by days she was slim and following fashion trends.
"Ke nnile le taste ya go rata mokgabo ke le monnye mo ebileng ke ne ke nna ke ya le mme kwa Mafikeng ke ya go reka dithelerini." Prior to the colour blocking era, she used to match colours. Irrespective of fashion trends, she always stays true to herself.
"Itse mmele wa gago, se lebelele gore ba bangwe ba apara jang, (choose something that perfectly suits your body shape)," she stresses.
Mma Tshireletso who is in love with colour purple, lime and pink marches to the beat of her own drum which is the best formula to always strike a new fad in fashion.
She adds that she wears cheap clothes because sometimes she just buys material, come up with a pattern and she would only part ways with P200.00 to appreciate the services of her designer. It is not a common sight to spot Mma Tshireletso shopping around malls.
Does she do her shopping in Paris like some First Ladies or what? Instead, there is a Zambian boy-Tobias Kabunda of Malunga and Kasiya Company who is always behind the sewing machine.
Her designer, Kabunda reveals in an interview that she met Mma Tshireletso seven years ago while he was still an employee of Lestitch textile business in Maruapula. After his boss kicked him out, Kabunda formed a company with a friend.
Sometimes, he says, Mma Tshireletso would bring her own material, because Kabunda knows her taste he would come up with a pattern.
At times, he spends sleepless nights designing for his customer when she needs special garments for different occasions.
"Sometimes I argue with her over a pattern and once she appears in the public she would be showered with "wows" and once I saw her incoming call, definitely I would be happy that I won," puns Kabunda, the designer with flair and panache.
The 37-year-old man who holds a Diploma in Fashion and Designing from a Zambian College shares that his recipe to entice more clients is perfect stitching, which he describes as an important element that gives an outfit an appealing look.
He designs garments for many prominent people, amongst them Education Minister, Ms Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Kgosi Mosadi Seboko, Professor Sheila Tlou, the wife to former Botswana Defense Force Commander, Lt General Tebogo Masire, Trade and Industry permanent secretary, Ms Banny Molosiwa, to cite but a few. It is not a simple task for Kabunda for these women appear in smatter outfits
."I always feel the pressure because their outfits should always match their status whenever they appear in the public...and I feel good too when they make those fashion statements," he explains.
In the company of his six employees, one could tell that Kabunda is a busy man as the team works on companies uniforms. To name a few companies whose employees wear uniforms bearing his brand are Botswana Telecommunications Authority, Civil Aviation, Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants and Botswana Accountancy College.
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