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How The King Got His Crown

Three women wake before the sun, watching it pool in dappled spots of gold on the well- worn floor of their homes. Their child is still asleep, still breathing in even rhythms while his eyelids flutter against a white pillow. The mattress sinks as the child’s mother lowers herself onto his bed, the springs lazily creaking at the added strain. The child opens his eyes into his mother’s, a measured smile creeping across her face as she strokes his forehead, silently welcoming him to this morning. “Good morning, Tshepo. The day is waiting for you,” his mother Masesi announces, her hand resting gently on his flushed cheek.

Masesi helps Tshepo dress, meticulously smoothing out the fabric over his skin. Buttons are pushed through stitched holes, collars are straightened and laces are tightly knotted, their loops peaking over white ankle socks. Belt loops are filled with stiff brown leather, a polished buckle catching the still early morning sunlight. The child is fidgety and impatient, longing to be outside, to feel the approaching heat of the day and to feel rough gravel beneath his shoes.

His grandmother, Magriza, watches Tshepo’s agitation grow with a knowing smirk, recognizing the characteristic restlessness of youth, idly remembering her own. A tight squeeze of Tshepo’s shoulder signals that Masesi is finished with this unwanted task and

immediately Tshepo bolts from her grip in the direction of the front door. Magriza calmly holds an arm out, blocking his way and effortlessly drawing him into her embrace. “Tshepo. You are a gentlemen and should always look like one.” Her eyes are filled with ancient wisdom, a lifetime of stories swirling around her darkened pupils. After a moment of pause, where the child’s restlessness dissipates like a morning mist, he giggles, pulling cheekily from his grandmother’s embrace and disappearing through the door.

Tshepo returns from his frantic play to find both his mother and his grandmother preparing the meal that would welcome Takalani, Tshepo’s aunt. She is visiting from University today and their home hums with anticipation. She disrupts the stillness of the evening, the Tsakane air splitting to accommodate her electricity. She crosses the threshold of her sorely missed home, finding Tshepo sitting cross-legged at the front door, eyes wide with excitement. He gazes up at her longingly, seeing a woman of beauty and strength draped in swathes of brilliant blue denim.

Takalani brought colour and vibrancy to Tsakane, and the young Tshepo was transfixed by her nonchalant sophistication. It was his grandmother’s words and that brilliant blue of Takalani’s denim that would lodge itself in his young mind, repeating in persistent echoes.

As Tshepo grows, he is anchored and held by these three women, each molding and shaping a prong that would form an invisible crown that Magriza, Takalani and Masesi would lower softly onto Tshepo’s head. After abandoning his Film Studies at AFDA, and studying fashion at the University of Johannesburg, this journey brought him back, again and again, to these three women. From Masesi comes strength and resilience, forming the first glittering gold spike of the crown. From Magriza, there is wisdom and masterful storytelling, forming the middle prong of Tshepo’s crown. From Takalani, there is an uninhibited passion for denim, forming the third and last prong, completing Tshepo’s crown.

As a third generation storyteller, Tshepo’s medium is denim, through which he is able to honour Masesi, Magriza and Takalani. And so, in 2015, TSHEPO was founded. You will see Tshepo’s crown on every TSHEPO garment, ever present in our journey.

And that is how the king got his crown.

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