This week, Voice Woman talks to Sabine Matsheka, Creative Director and Founder of MARU, a local sustainable clothing brand and online store.
Matsheka, a Master’s Degree holder from the London School of Economics and Political Science, is also a cosmolite, having visited and lived in some of the world’s most charming cities such as Brussels, Washington DC, Arusha, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Kuala Lumpur, London and Geneva.
The inspiration behind Matsheka’s brand is “the clouds, in the sun-baked Kalahari Desert, quenched by the wealth of the Okavango Delta,” she says, adding that elements of nature are the centre soul of Maru.
Tell us about your clothing brand…
Maru envisions recalling 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 hankers the resurgence of her unexacting grace.
When did you develop your interest in fashion/textiles?
I’ve loved clothes since I was child. I later expressed this love through my high school years as a drama student – I loved costume design and dressing the (acting) part.
My first real job was working in retail. My mother and father are/were incredibly fashionable individuals, and those who know them can attest to this. I believe that experience cemented my love for all things fashion.
What inspired the name Maru?
Naming the brand MARU was probably one of the first things I was sure of.
I always knew I wanted my brand to have a Setswana name and always imagined us making minimalist, lightweight garments to be worn under the hot Botswana sun.
Thus MARU, meaning clouds in Setswana – clothes that are free and weightless like clouds are.
What kind of woman do you design for?
‘Mosadi wa Maru’ is a multi-faceted woman, in who she is and how she dresses. She’s many things at once, a dreamer as well as grounded.
She’s a conscious woman, pays attention to detail and is of quality and grace.
…And your choice of fabrics.
The fabrics we use are all organic and have been carefully constructed by local craftspeople, in linen, rayon, leather, wool and cotton. These natural fabrics allow our bodies to breathe, and the earth to, too. They’re light and airy, for the most part.
What challenges have you encountered establishing your brand?
One of the main challenges in running a small business is funding. I am fully self-funding MARU and that’s proven to be challenging at times as we work to scale up, given the limited opportunities for funding in this industry.
Another challenge has been ensuring our items are 100% locally made, which isn’t easy given the current state of the local textile and apparel industry here.
Though, in spite of this and the high cost that comes with doing things locally, we’ve remained determined and we are succeeding in making this a focal point of our business.
As well-travelled professional, what do you draw inspiration from?
My design influences are ever changing. One influence that is a constant is the inspiration drawn from natural elements.
Maru means clouds. I look to the colours, textures, and appearances of the sky, the earth and our environment as a whole.
What contribution would you like to make locally and what changes would you like to see globally in the apparel industry?
Maru’s depth of purpose is to carve a path towards an active textile and manufacturing industry in Botswana, where we are combatively intersectional in our approach.
The aim is to encourage activity in the industry where there is none, and where there is, present and remediate flaws.
Globally, I’d like to continue to see important changes in the extractive and exploitive nature of the fashion industry, especially in relation to big retailers and manufacturers.
Where do you see your business in 5 to 10 years: future plans?
Aside from our seasonal collections (S/S ‘22 coming up next), I have a strong desire and intention of producing textiles sustainably, locally in the future.
We also continue to work on conscious efforts on the social front as well.
What advice do you have for young designers who look up to you as a role model?
You’ll never be the first to do anything. Focus on building a vision and staying true to it and hopefully in the end that will set you apart and carry you further.
…And kudos to your photographer, amazing skills indeed!
Thank you. Wenzile Dube is an incredible young talent!