Who would think that a covering used to keep warm could be someone’s fashion staple? Well in Lesotho, this is the case. Lesotho is a landlocked nation completely enclosed by South Africa. The land is mostly highlands with little urban areas which means many of the villages are accessible only by foot, horseback, or a small aircraft. The climate varies from extremely hot in the summer reaching up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit to drastically low in the winter where the thermometer can read 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Basotho blanket is derived from the inhabitants of the land also named the Basotho or Sotho. There are several variations of the fashionable blanket. The oldest brand is known as the Victoria England. In 1897, Queen Victoria visited Lesotho during her jubilee year. She gave then King Lerotholi Letsie a blanket as a gift which he proceeded to adorn poncho style over his shoulders and this began the tradition of wearing the blanket as attire. Queen Victoria was highly admired and respected by the Basotho people thus the Victoria England being worn as a sign of high status.
The Seanamarena brand is now considered the highest brand of Basotho blankets. The origin of this blanket commenced in 1930 when Mr Charles Hendry Robertson owned a trading shop in Leribe named Seanamarena. The aforementioned collection features the esteemed Poone design with a corncob style. The corncob is a sign of fertility and wealth in Lesotho culture.
The Morena collection is the everyday wear blanket. The Morena is available in Riet or cards, Millie (corncob), and the Nkwe (leopard skin). The Nkwe design symbolizes the stones in which the Basotho people use to build their homes. The Sefate is also a practical wear blanket and can be found in Ace and Poone motifs.
The Motlatsi or successor in title assortment was formed to honor the birth of the Crown Prince in 2007. The design features a collection of hearts which symbolizes the love the Basotho people have for the Royal family.
The Kharetsa design was inspired by the spiral aloe found only in the Maluti mountains. The aloe is the center design and is surrounded by the Basotho hat and shield theme.
The Matlama motif is traditionally worn by women during wedding ceremonies and features a prominent border with an ordinary adjustable center. The initial version of the Matlama was presented by Arana and worn by men.
The Khotso design is the only variation made with acrylic and is considered the introductory level of blankets. It features the mojalefa (the heir), cards, and the Ntihe Poone styles.
The Basotho blankets connote status and are gifted during significant ceremonies such as birth, marriage, and initiation into maturity. There is a blanket festival held annually in Lesotho which showcases dancing, a fashion show, and the unique designs of the blankets.
The exclusive rights to produce Basotho blankets are now owned by Aranda Textile Mills Ltd – a South African company and is now being incorporated into high fashion as evidenced by its inclusion in the Louis Vuitton and Burberry 2012 and 2014 fashion shows.
In 2016, the Victoria England Spitfire Limited Edition was named after the Spitfire Fighter aircraft that Lesotho donated to Britain during World War II as a sign of appreciation for Britain’s protection.
Fashion, style, and tradition at its finest.