Shaking up the bridal wear industry

Shaking up the bridal wear industry

MASERU – THOLOANA Makoro is redefining the local bridal wear industry, offering an elegant spin fit for a modern bride.
Her sensual and sophisticated creations are the talk of the town. If you are on Instagram or attended a wedding of the “who is who” of Maseru then chances are you have come across her designs.

Every weekend, a new captivating piece is on social media, posted by happy brides.
At bridal parties, talk is centred on Makoro’s House of Hannah magnificent pieces.
Makoro, a graduate of Victoria Toma Institute of Fashion Design, has created all sorts of garments.
But it was not until 2016 that she decided to focus mostly on bridal wear.

As a young girl Makoro loved fashion and style. She credits her brother as her biggest influence, having sat her down and explained that to succeed she needed to pursue something that she enjoyed doing all the time.
“After this talk I decided to take a fabrics class in high school and since that day I knew fashion and making clothes was for me,” Makoro says.
Makoro says she saw the joy on her father’s face when she made her first dress as a Form D pupil and she was determined to go all the way.
“I have never looked back,” she says.

“House of Hannah is not my first business,” she says, adding: “After graduation in 2006 I started my own business.”
She explains that the business was only operational for a year.
“I was young and naive. I did not know how to run a business. I thought the money I made belonged to me and not to the business. So, I was careless with my finances and soon I had to close shop,” she confesses.

She adds that she did not treat the venture like a serious business. “It was where I worked but most of all it was a hanging out spot for my friends”.
After closing shop in 2006, she sought employment and worked as a news anchor and a programme presenter at PC FM.
“I had a Sunday gospel morning show on PC FM but mainly I was a news reader,” she says.

She worked there for two years but she was also making clothes after work during that period. She joined an online news agency in 2009, but moved to print media and eventually worked as a public relations officer for a well known company. “All this time I knew that I would eventually work for myself. I deliberately joined the corporate world to learn how to run a business, get clients and how to communicate with customers,” she says.

Makoro adds that she was aware from the onset that she lacked some skills and had to be equipped if ever she was going to avoid history from repeating itself. At the end of 2015 Makoro felt she was finally ready to leave formal employment to start her own journey as an entrepreneur.
“I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. I was always selling something from t-shirts, to food. I have done it all,” she says.
Though Makoro was better prepared this time around she still faced challenges in her journey.

“The biggest challenge was finding our own market share and defining what we wanted to do. We had to stop taking orders for just about anything and scaled down our garments, it turned out that our large portion of clients is made of bridal wear. It was tough because we were basically saying no to money,” she says.

Makoro says gaining people’s trust was also a challenge because people knew her as a media person and not as a designer or tailor.
“Only those who were very close to me knew that I made clothes. People thought I was taking chances and to prove that I was capable, I went on and dit it. It was a challenge but we overcame,” she says. One of her biggest challenges is competition from the Chinese.
“The Chinese nationals fix prices and it is very difficult and unfair to compete with that as they have their own fabrics and do not have to buy them,” says Makoro.

She elaborates that she had to make a tough decision to ensure that she does not compromise the legacy and brand she is trying to build.
“Basotho love beautiful things but they do not like the prices attached to those things,” Makoro says.
Social media and word of mouth have played a huge role in marketing her business.

“I had to make the decision on how I was going to engage with my current and potential clients after identifying them. I realised that my target market were people on Instagram and decided to have a strong presence there,” she says.
She says her clients have played a big role in her social media advertising.
“I don’t think I would have come this far had it not been for their appreciation of my work and their willingness to share on social media their pictures in my garments,” she says.

Makoro states that since starting her own business her communication and time management skills have greatly improved.
“People make the mistake of thinking that being self-employed is the nicest thing. They think you do not go to work when you don’t feel like. The truth is if you don’t work you will not have food on the table. So you learn to use your time effectively,” she says.

She adds that though there are often misunderstandings and disagreements with clients, one learns to be humble and professional through it all.
Makoro, who currently employs two full time staff members and two part timers, says her dream is to see House of Hannah grow big enough to self-sustain and become a biggest personalised bridal label in the country.

“We are hoping to own a studio where we can showcase our work and it is my hope that this legacy I am building for my daughter will live on beyond my existence,” Makoro says. She says at the rate the label is growing, her dreams will soon be a reality.
“Entrepreneurship is the hardest thing anyone can do after saving lives. But it is also the most rewarding journey ever,” she says. “It requires a lot of sacrifice, dedication and a thick skin but it is worth it.”

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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