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Leisa: Cultivating Basotho tradition and modern style


Pheello Mosesi

Leisa, a clothing brand, was founded in 2016 by Kamohelo Chabana, who was just 22 years old at the time.

Chabana’s inspiration stems from a deep love, appreciation, and respect for his homeland, Lesotho, and its rich traditions.

“When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind,” he quoted an African proverb, which he lives by daily to drive his passion for Leisa. “It was inspired by our cultural norms of going to initiation school,” explained the young designer from Mohale’s Hoek.

Chabana emphasised the importance of finding grounding elements in life, especially during tough times. “No matter how hard the wind blows, when you plant your roots deep, you can stand strong even in the face of adversity,” he remarked.

“This is what Leisa represents.”

The brand’s logo features a depiction of the founder holding a knobkerrie in his right hand alongside his dogs, captured after his initiation journey.

According to Chabana, the logo holds significant symbolism. “The mekorotlo hats represent the Basotho nation, grooming boys to be future leaders. The dogs symbolize traditional hunting to provide for families, while the shields represent peace and protection.”

“The design shows the founder in a form of a picture, holding a knobkerrie in his right hand with his dogs, which was taken after his initiation journey. This logo has a deeper meaning to it than just a picture according to Chabana, “The mekorotlo hats represent the nation of Basotho which grooms a boy to be a future leader. The dogs are what boys back in the day used to hunt with in order to provide for their families. The shields show a sign of peace and protection” he described.

“Leisa is a name or a title given to a boy whose father wants to put together an initiation school and so he wants him to be a leader of those who will join him on this journey of becoming true men and leaders of tomorrow as culture is concerned,” he added.

Despite its deep roots in Basotho culture, Leisa does not discriminate based on gender or race. The brand boasts a diverse range of products, including T-shirts, sweaters, hats, caps, and soon, blankets.

Chabana revealed plans to launch Leisa blankets nationwide and in South Africa in mid-May of this year, marking a significant milestone for the brand.

He explained why it took nearly a decade for the clothing line to expand its product range to include blankets, despite having designs resembling them from the outset.

“I was privileged to enter and win the Young Basotho Designers Collection competition,” he recalled.

He attributed the brand’s growth to this milestone, believing it to be a stroke of fate, especially as the launch coincides with the bicentennial anniversary of the Basotho nation’s founding.

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