Move over David Tlale and Óle Ledimo because a new contender for the male fashion designer throne is rising from the horizon, writes Chamu Wilson.
Founded by Tshepo Mareka, the House of Mareka is ready to radiate beams of light into the fashion world. So amazing is the work of the 29-year old Botshabelo-based designer that it will actually be a tragedy if his designs fail to traverse the borders of South Africa’s Free State province.
Unlike most designers’ works that rarely “leave” the ramp for customers’ wardrobes, Mareka’s unique designs can easily be bought by any fashion conscious client and are appropriate for a wide variety of occasions, be it social, business or otherwise.
Formed in 2014, House of Mareka has exhibited at the Free State Fashion Week where he scooped the Best Male Designer of the Year accolade in 2016 before showcasing his works during this year’s event. In 2008, he rubbed shoulders with arguably the hottest name in fashion designing in South Africa, David Tlale, as well as Free State’s own prodigy, Óle Ledimo, who runs the House of Óle, and it seems some of their success charms pollinated Mareka’s budding flower.
“My interest for designing was born after watching my mother struggle with the huge orders that she had. I just wished if only I knew how to design, I would assist her,” explained Mareka.
That wish became a seed that would painstakingly germinate when his mother allowed him to learn how to stitch on the machine. But the designer in Mareka was impatient and wanted to come up with fashion styles and not just to stitch.
This led him to tear one of his trousers apart and use the cloth to come up with a new design.
However, while his mother was supportive of his love for designing, his father would hear none of it. Coming from a teaching background, Mareka-senior wanted his son to acquire an “education” that would allow him to live a comfortable life.
“My father made it clear that he was not going to let me follow my heart as long as I lived under his roof. It had to take the intervention of my aunt to convince him to let me be what I wanted,” Mareka narrated.
In 2006, the young designer enrolled for a course in Clothing Production at Motheo TVET College in Thaba Nchu. The following year he took part in the Ilanga Estate Fashion Show where he showcased a dress made of newspapers and came out fifth.
He later teamed up with some friends and registered a fashion design company in 2013 but, because of lack of commitment from some of the associates, it suffered a still-birth.
“That is when I learned that one should never do business with someone who is not as hungry as you are. It taught me to go my own route hence I registered House of Mareka in 2014 with my mother helping me in designing.”
House of Mareka specialises in all kinds of suits for both male and females, evening wear, bridal wear, traditional wear, casual and semi-casual wear and anything that might be required by the client. To date, Mareka draws customers mainly from Bloemfontein, Botshabelo, Thaba Nchu, Tweelspruit, Ladybrand and as far afield as Lesotho.
However, Mareka’s journey has not been without its challenges.
“The major challenges that I face is finance. I have knocked on every institution’s door for funding but they have not been forthcoming with support. So for now, I have to use the little resources that I have,” he lamented.
With more rigorous marketing, Mareka hopes to sell his clothing line to retail outlets while he plans to open his own boutique sometime in the future.
*You can check out more designs from House of Mareka on Trendzz Free State Facebook page*