Owner and designer Mapholo Ratau was working in the corporate world when her signature style first started attracting attention. “In 2011, I went to a funeral in Limpopo. Everyone admired the hat I was wearing, so I took orders. By Thursday, I’d sold 10 hats and that was the start of my new business, Ledikana,” says Ratau. “I started designing and making traditional clothing, which I sold while still working full time for the next three years. “I used to work for a large finance company. In 2014, the company was undergoing restructuring and I decided the time was right for me to be bold and go full time with Ledikana so I left my job. I opened my first shop at OR Tambo International Airport and from the beginning, it was a success. “In 2016, I began looking for another shop in Johannesburg and it didn’t take much to convince me that Melrose Arch was the best place for Ledikana.”
She was right. Customers began flocking to her store, thrilled they could find stylish African apparel in such a convenient location, and celebrities, including India Arie, Lesley Anne Murphy, Unathi, Tumi Moraki, Pabi Moloi, Shekhinah, Mafikizolo and Thembi Seete, followed suit. Ledikana is also popular with tourists, who love the colourful ethnic designs. Ratau firmly believes in empowering and helping develop the skills of women across South Africa, so women, mostly sole breadwinners and pensioners, from the rural areas of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Gauteng are employed to sew for Ledikana. (Ratau and her daughter, Masechaba, also run a crèche in Burgersfort for the area’s underprivileged children.)
Ledikana’s clothing and accessories cover all the cultures of South Africa. Ratau recently launched a new range, Babino Noko, based on the BaPedi culture. “Babino Noko is a celebration of my heritage and tradition,” explains Ratau. “It’s the first of its kind in South Africa. “Blankets play an important role in South African culture and each ethnic group has its own traditional blanket. However, the BaPedi people didn’t have their own blanket so I decided to introduce one. “I designed a blanket and I’m happy to say that I’m among the first person to come up with a traditional BaPedi blanket, and more is still coming.”
The Babino Noko range also includes chic accessories like cosmetic bags and laptop bags, and Ratau has recently designed an elegant new shawl that will be available in store early autumn. It’s going to be a stylish winter indeed!
Ledikana, shop no H54EF, Upper Retail Galleria, Melrose Arch. Tel (011) 684-1049, www.ledikana.com.