Celebrating Lesedi Matlapeng of KefSeddy Design
Locally, few designers boast an illustrious career spanning two decades as award-winning, globe-trotting, creative genius, Lesedi Matlapeng of KefSeddy Design.
Specialising in haute couture garments, the designer has spent half her life creating world-class evening wear, breathtaking bridal attire and glamorous bespoke pieces, becoming one of the most highly sought-after designers.
She flaunts her own creations wherever she goes, making lasting impressions as she sells her brand internationally, and raising the country’s flag high.
As Voice Woman joins the nation in celebrating 56 years of Independence, who better to feature this week than the ever-busy 43-year-old Mochudi native (Oops! She’s fully booked till next year) to talk about the unmistakable legacy that she is building, not just for herself but also for the country’s fashion profession.
A long overdue ‘reunion’ of former classmates (we used to sit next to each other in art class at high school) the easy-going designer reminds yours truly that’s where it all started.
“I’ve always loved to create beautiful things. I made a jewelry box which was selected for a National Museum exhibition, as a Form 4 student at Legae Academy, remember? As you may also also recall, Art and Maths were my strong suits. Moreover, my mom used to design her own curtains, and whenever she freed the sewing machine, I’d eagerly take over the sewing. One day, she’d hurried out to run errands, and I finished off the drapes. On returning, she could not believe her eyes,” she narrates, adding years later when she decided to study fashion, her mother easily supported her.
Obsessed with the American soapie, The Bold & the Beautiful during her formative years, she dreamt of one day designing showstopper apparel for international runaways, a dream that she’s currently living.
So, in 2000, she went on to pursue Fashion Design at Pretoria Technikon, now Tshwane University of Technology. “However, I’d started at a posher college – Fashion International Pretoria – which was quite expensive for my mother, but I excelled; I was the most studious, finishing top of my class,” she says.
After graduation, Lesedi briefly worked for Simon Redman, who was famous for dressing Miss South Africa pageant winners like Joanne Strauss.
“It was my design that she wore when she was crowned in 2001, while I was on attachment at Simon Redman. It inspired me to want to return home to dress our beauty queens as well. So, while I enjoyed the on-the-job training, I set my heart on returning home to also do exploits for my country,” says the patriot, beaming with pride at the memory.
On settling back home, after graduation in 2003, the Mochudi-born designer would start designing garments for Miss Botswana contestants.
“I dressed one of the contestants of that year’s pageant. Though she didn’t win, my dress won. After the pageant, the queen, Boingotlo Motlalekgosi, subsequently chose me to dress her. I was then commissioned to design 10 outfits for her trip to the Miss World pageant,” she gushes.
Dressing that year’s reigning queen gave her enough exposure, “I remember sometime in 2004, I bumped into you and you encouraged me to enter the Consumer Fair Fashion Design competition (I’d totally forgotten). That was my first show, and I got massive coverage from the media; The Voice Newspaper being the first!” she reflects, adding more clients began to knock on her door, thus she could scale up.
In 2007, she entered the KBL Kickstart competition, whose tagline was simply ‘Investing in Youth’ and what a worthy investment the beverages giant made! She made the Top 20 cut; accordingly, acquired further business skills training.
“We had to write business plans and went through gruelling interviews. the Top 5 plans stood a chance to win the coveted P100k prize. I was prayerful and trusted the Lord always, as the competition was tough. Days later, I dreamt I’d won, only to be roused by a call the next morning from the KBL team informing me that I was the victor. It was incredible!” she says, and adds the competition was not over yet; the finalists had to now demonstrate they could apply all the learning from the programme.
After the P100k boost to her fledgling enterprise, she bought equipment and hired 10 employees.
“Business was booming! The KBL team would occasionally come to inspect the operation, and they were impressed with the running of the business so, ultimately, I won the coveted prize of P120,000. I was spurred on and thereafter approached the Ministry of Youth for a monetary grant,” she explains.
Her eponymous brand has grown exponentially since.
In December 2019, she dressed former Miss South Africa and entrepreneur, Basetsana Kumalo, for her book launch; “I designed a 2-in-1 outfit and not only was she elated but the feedback and reaction I got via her social media handles was out of this world. She follows me on Instagram, and when she came to visit her extended family here in Botswana recently, she contacted me to design more outfits for her,” she says, naming local songstress, Samantha Mogwe, and former beauty queens Emma Wareus, Karabo Sampson, Lorato Tebogo among her many celebrity clients.
The fashion guru says word of mouth is still the best marketing strategy for her business and dressing high-profile individuals like Ambassador to Sweden H.E. Chandapiwa Nteta, as well as influencers such as Dineo Saleshando and Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego has played a major role in marketing the KefSeddy brand.
“I designed Mma Sebego’s wedding gown and she continues to trust me with her wardrobe. I believe she was pivotal in securing me such customers as Ambassador Nteta. I dressed her and the entire staff of the embassy for their Independence celebrations in Sweden 3 years ago when I exhibited there, and the entire line sold out!” she says proudly, and discloses that in a month’s time, she will return to Europe as invitations keep pouring in.
She has showcased at various international events like the Africa Fashion International, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2017 in Cape Town, Kenya in 2014 just to mention a few.
Highlights, albeit innumerable, are the recent Dubai Expo, followed by the De Beers Group’s Business Excellence Seminar in London this year.
“Last year, I received an invitation to showcase at the Paris Fashion Week. Unfortunately, I wasn’t financially ready due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the business. However, despite these heart-rending challenges, God has been faithful; MYSEC, in conjuction with the BITC, invited me to showcase at the Dubai Expo for the Debswana Business Gala Dinner, where I amassed an impressive clientele. One particular celebrity would follow me to my room to buy the outfit I was wearing! Some placed orders, which, once I got back, I designed and shipped back; indeed a lucrative opportunity and blessing,” says the fashion icon.
She hopes to raise enough money to showcase at either the Paris Fashion week or New York.
“That’s the dream. Of course, it’d be nice to do Paris first. It doesn’t come cheap; anything in the region of P100k because it’s the most prestigious platform; the package includes the main show, exhibition and interviews, which will ensure that I get to interact with the A-list of Hollywood. It’s been a long journey of hard work, resilience, humility and faith in God; I believe my clientele has been loyal due to my humility,” she concludes, and adds; “I love to design for tall people like you, and the Ambassador to Sweden, because you’re like models, and everyone really as I value all my clients. Locally, I wish to dress our first Lady and, internationally, Bonang Matheba or Michelle Obama, says the lady who’s dressed more than 500 brides since setting up KefSeddy Design.
Seddy’s wish is to open a boutique, or supply chain stores like Woolies.
God willing, she’d like to design all the way into her 60s and 70s, working behind the scenes as she mentors the next generation of fashion designers.