Back in December 2014 while swiping through Instagram I stumbled upon Neo the owner of African Lace. I was amazed at the beauty and quality of her leather goods and couldn’t believe she was right here in Botswana. I jumped at the chance to interview her and spread the word about her work. I love what the fashion industry in the different countries of Africa are producing.
Especially Kenya and Nigeria. Botswana isn’t really on the map yet as a fashion forward country but slowly slowly. I had the idea this year to spotlight artists, designers and anyone working in ethical fashion, when I found them. Yea it was very difficult actually finding quality work.
But Neo is like none other!
Yes! It did take me several months to upload this interview but the best things are always saved for last!
Please introduce yourself :
My nameis Neo Ooke. I’m from Botswana. I’m the founder and designer of AFRICAN LACE, an accessories brand that crafts unique hand made African inspired accessories. These are mainly for the consumption of afrocentric and fashion forward people.
How would you define your craft?
My craft is very different from what is found here especially in my country. It incorporates creativity and fashion, making my piece appealing to anybody ,with or without a fashion sense
What was (or is) the hardest part of getting started with your business?
Start up capital and advertisement. I started from my own pocket. It’s difficult especially if you start from zero. I had to use my savings to buy machines and material.
What inspires you everyday when you wake up? Does it also inspire your creative side?
Im inspired by almost anything.I always see the beauty in everthing which makes creativity come very easy for me.So when I wake up I always look forward to seeing my ideas coming to life.
What is the fashion industry like in Botswana for up and coming hand crafters like yourself?
Batswana generally do not appreciate crafts, they’d rather go for big well known brands. But with introduction of initiatives such as BUY BOTSWANA, LOCAL EMPOWERMENT by government, more people are showing support.
Even companies are now into empowering locally produced things. As for fashion design, it is still a new concept here. I can say the fashion industry is so embracing. It’s very easy to be recognized as a designer. As long as you give it your all, bloggers, magazines, fashion lovers are so welcoming.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I see myself owning and running one of the biggest accessories manufacturing workshops,empowering especially underpreviledged people, and also operating a high end boutique somewhere in Botswana to retail these products.
Do you have a website? How can people get in touch with you for viewing and purchasing of products?
Yes I have a website but it doesn’t have online shopping yet. In the future we will enable that function. It’s www.africanlace.biz
As for buying items customers place orders through email and we send them through couriers.
What advice can you share with young women reading that aspire to start their own business or break into the fashion industry (especially in Botswana) but don’t know where to start?
It’s best to start small with your own money then take it from there because at times trying to get established and also having to deal with financiers might lead to failure. This type of business will grow itself. Also make use of social media it’s a powerful and free way of marketing products.
So this is a hair question… But can you talk a little bit about your natural haircare? What you do to maintain your hair when you are traveling?
Actually I’m hoping you can assist me there. My natural hair doesn’t grow and I have kept it natural since 2007. I prefer to keep it braided especially when I have to travel. I love box braids.
Thank you Neo for interview with us! If you are interested in purchasing her products you can reach her here:
Facebook: Neo at Africanlace