Women Changing South Africa
Business & Entrepreneurship
Mapitso Thaisi (27)
Founder and Creative Director — Shweshwekini Active Wear

As the founder of ShweShweKini Active Wear, Mapitso Thaisi has a vision: to combine her passion for occupational therapy, human rights and culturally expressive clothing. In the future she wants to foster inclusivity by investing in people with disabilities to work on the brand.

She has had to juggle her work, studies and side hustle since 2017, when she founded ShweShweKini, a range of active swimwear inspired by the ShweShwe print. The ShweShwe pattern originates from her birthplace: Lesotho. Thaisi decided to start the brand as she felt there was a lack of African brands in swimwear, catering for African body shapes and needs.

Retailing at between R550 and R1 400, ShweShweKini is a niche offering that has already featured on Top Billing. It caters to young, trendy travellers who are keen to showcase their lifestyle on social media. Women make up 95% of her market.

Thaisi says the extra cost of the production and printing of the unique ShweShwe design adds to the price tag, as opposed to buying ready-made fabric. Despite gloomy economic times for retail, Mapitso says there is a great deal of interest in the brand: “People are bombarding my phone right now with orders,” she says.

The swimming suits can be ordered the brand’s shop online, the Zando website or Hello Africa in Maboneng, Johannesburg.

ShweShweKini Active Wear is slowly becoming successful and Thaisi has played a cautious game, retaining her job as an assessor with her occupational therapy degree at a life insurance company. She runs the swimwear business part-time, as she understands the struggles of a start-up and also needs to fund her master’s degree in human rights.

ShweShweKini Active Wear was invited to New York Fashion Week at the last minute this year, and Thaisi hopes to gather the necessary funding next year to take her business global.

— Tehilla Niselow

Twitter: @Mapitso_Thaisi