07.06.2016

Afrique du Chic

Pushing Pan-African cool with UrbanMosadi's Tiisetso Molobi

Words: Oratile Mashazi | Photography: Chisanga Mubanga

Tiisetso Molobi, designer and purveyor of luxury goods brand UrbanMosadi, is a fashion maven and proud African. Combining streetwear simplicity with continental fabrics, she weaves her travels and history into incredible accessories that can be found on the bodies of trendsetters worldwide.

"UrbanMosadi is really about pushing Pan-African cool. I'm trying to celebrate the most authentic fabrics the continent produces, which are not necessarily associated with or governed by worldly trends."

A child of a political family, Tiisetso is also part of a generation of creatives who have brought urban culture to the fore. Her blog documents the rise of the Boyzn Bucks, the release of Future Sounds and even the drop of 'Caracara', and her tastes and talent put her in a position to identify and embody authenticity and urban Africa in creative ways. She counts everyone from AKA to Mkay Frash as her clients, and her work is immediately identifiable as it's infused with the qualities of urbanity and luxury that inform her personal style.

We took to Braam to shoot the designer/millenial/mother of Mosadi and it was a stellar occasion to stunt and unravel the style of streetwear royalty. Upon arrival at Daleah's, a buzzing meeting point for Jozi creatives, I find her engrossed in conversation with Boogy Maboi, and I can't get a word in edgewise while Boss Zonke offers her free T-shirts or something (I was too stunned to see him to compute the conversation, tbh).

To the untrained eye, the creative industry is haphazardly expanding at an unprecedented rate. On the streets of South Africa's cities, there are those who are pushing this current permutation of street culture, and then there are those who run it. Tiisetso falls into the latter.

A braid chain hairstyle she rocked had the blogs and streets crying some years ago, and I expect to see her current pixie cut all over Braam in a few weeks time. Some people are sent to inspire and create beauty, that's just how it is. 

The looks Tiisetso pulled for our shoot embody her coolness, her composure, her authenticity, her subtle sass and sex appeal. Complexity is compelling but simplicity steals the show, and the juxtaposition between these extremes brings her looks to life. 

Informed by her upbringing in Johannesburg, extensive travel along with a serious stint in the Mother City, Tiisetso's style is an amalgamation of urban experiences. She jets to New York to cop gear she can't find here, and combines high fashion, fast fashion and streetwear with no drama, just effortless execution and sartorial self-expression. Everything she wears has a story.

Treat the streets

The tee is from Imbue, a fresh line by Keitu in collaboration with Commissioner street's DOPEstore. Her crisp, white Reeboks gleaming, Miu Miu stunners literally glittering – it's low-key luxury pulled together perfectly.

The dark angel 

The shoes, the dress, the bag, the human. Black is beautiful. So simple and so sexy. The dress is by William Okpo, a NYC label by sisters Darlene and Lizzy Okpo that Tiisetso loves. The shoes are from & Other Stories and the bag is UrbanMosadi, obviously. Swagger is sold separately. Sorry. The interplay of African luxury and streetwear is an UrbanMosadi speciality. The streets have much to learn.

Crazy sexy cool

Venetian red nails and lips, a Bloods bandana, fur and little else. This is the cherry on top of the day's shoot. Womynhood is wonderful, such strength and sensuality beaming from her and leaving onlookers stunned, somewhat jealous and highly inspired.

Within the flurry of activity, Tiisetso presents a regal figure, revealing her diverse taste and experience to the camera and looking sensational throughout. Catching up over tea and sandwiches, she tells Boogy and me about her new studio. 

"I just picked up the keys! I'm so excited, I wanna use the space as a platform for other artists as well. Just be open to the community, or whoever wants to use the Wi-Fi."

This is the African way, to build networks and share knowledge and resources. Contributing to culture nurtures your own talent and encourages others to make their own contribution. Tiisetso's current inspirations include Beautiful Boys, a label from illustrator/designer/Superbalist 100-er Lazi Mathebula. She modelled at his A/W launch at The Hive just a few weeks ago.

Later Tiisetso walks into some salacious stories over at the sushi place by Kitcheners, she sighs and says, "This is why I just stay home, actually. I can't handle, I'm too sensitive." Finding her place in the city and getting a grip on Jozi is a thrilling process, but it can be overwhelming, too. Life is both beauty and tragedy and Tiisetso takes each with grace.

Sensitivity is something Tiisetso brings up often, it's her superpower – the ability to observe and empathise deeply with the world around her. This gives her insight into emotion and behaviour, which she then translates into something of substance. For example, a red-strapped, mudcloth sling bag, a most exquisite piece and a powerful way to represent African identity.

Tiisetso is already scheming up her new line and the crewnecks she's designing for it.

"There's so much to do! I have so many ideas I want to work on but I don't know if I'll ever be able to do them all," she sighs, as I try to comfort her with a platitude about the futility of achievement. But of course being a young mother and entrepreneur, she cannot be placated, "Each of us passes the baton onto the next person to tell the story, and to build onto the culture, we have to keep pushing!"

Tiisetso's dreams are big; they beam out of her eyes when she's talking about the vision she has for her studio or how she plans to incorporate apparel into her next range. And it's exciting to think that she's on her way to achieving these dreams as she trailblazes for the young, urban and African.