Climbing the ladder in the world of design and local apparel production is a gauntlet. Each step brings ferocious competition from other businesses. LES Apparel breaks it down on how they produce high-quality urban designs while at the same time remain competitive in the market.
LES Apparel is an urban design with more innovations of the current urban style. It’s a local clothing line with a vision to be an international brand. Its motto is, ‘LES Apparel; wear it cool.’ It is pioneered by Moeketsi Kojoana, popularly known as Ras or LES.
Moeketsi is very easy to find. That’s how he likes it. If you have his contacts, a single phone call will get you a meeting, even if it means delaying customer deliveries. This is a fluke, it happened only in our case and for the sole purpose of this interview.
Reaching Moeketsi’s chambers at MetCash building, he’s welcoming and his business partner is busy on the laptop, a guy I never got to know his name. I decided not to ask and went ahead with the business of the day.
How the entrepreneurial journey began
“It all started gradually. It seemed like a game.” Moeketsi recalls. From his high school years he used to print t-shirts but the passion wasn’t strong. He fully started in 2012 after completing his Form E.
“I met a guy from Mohale’s Hoek who is based in Bloemfontein. He was selling locally branded clothes and I loved that concept and took it and went to him because of my love for local merchandise.”
In 2013, he went to college. He pursued a Diploma in Environmental Health Sciences at the National Health Training Centre and began his business around the same time.
“I met a friend who used Photoshop to design. He taught me the skill and I made my first design. When the design was done, I paid my Bloemfontein friend a visit with intentions to print it. He recommended Corel Draw, and then taught me how to use it instead. And that’s where everything else began.”
Moeketsi came back with his first frame of a Lesotho design. He continued to add to that despite him being swamped with his school work, he’d use his lunch breaks to learn how to draw.
“It was all about my passion and the more I practiced, it got better. I didn’t grow up with that talent.” He said.
Upon this, one of his lecturers challenged him by asking him to make a design for one organization, and the response was positive. That gave him the motivation he needed.
Funding the business and positioning the brand in the market
He got money from his brother as capital to start, bought 20 t-shirts and printed them. That first batch translated into quick cash. People were eager to buy, especially his fellow schoolmates. With the second batch, he used Facebook to market and boost his sales and everything took on from there.
“What made me persist with this type of business is the fact that I love wearing unique clothes; stuff that is not popular. I also enjoy traveling and I know that if I wear local clothes everyone would know where I’m from.”
He also emphasized on the fact that his entrepreneurial life is attributed to his background and despite it getting monotonous for hustlers to say they have terrible backgrounds, it is true.
“Making it where we are today was never easy, we had to push really hard. While pushing, I was learning every skill from that very same guy who inspired me to be where I am today. I work with him, and I always refer to him each and every time.”
He said to succeed in any kind of business you ought to prioritize on the following: customer satisfaction, producing quality products while meeting your target market. Anybody can do this kind of business; the difference will be why you think you can do it better than everyone else.
LES Apparel as a clothing line
“The reason why I started LES Apparel was due to the fact that I had many designs, with the same concept. My vision is to see to it that the merchandise manufactured locally should be worn internationally. And my grandchildren and great grandchildren should work harder knowing that I worked hard for this.”
He says that the business has a lot of challenges because a lot of people don’t understand it. “A lot of our citizens need fully Lesotho-branded clothes. So I tried to come up with some innovative ideas on how to make the designs urban, despite having the LES apparel as Lesotho branded.”
They are currently producing beanies, floppy hats, t-shirts, golf shirts, baseball jackets, warmer jackets, caps; upper apparel and they have track pants coming this winter.
“We always try to ensure that our products are of the highest quality, our clients will attest to that. And we try to cater for every age group,”
Getting inspiration for designs
“My designs are a part of my life now, they come to me whenever and each time they come I have to note them down, wherever I may be.”
The designs take some time to complete because the main aim is to have a product that will satisfy the client and therefore there’s a need for more time and effort to bring out a good design that will sell.
“When I’m done designing I ask people I’m close to who will give me an honest opinion on them. These are people who buy my products consistently. I always try to stay at the top of my game. Every season and year has its own design and I try to push my designs by ensuring that I wear my products all the time because that’s one way of marketing them.”
The designs are strictly urban designs and he still produces Lesotho designs but it’s mostly from demand by his clients. The clothing line is urban with the latest innovations, and that is the main concept of LES Apparel. Moeketsi is always on the look-out for the latest urban trends and uses those as inspirations for his new designs.
His first buying customer
He sold his first t-shirt at the Maseru border gate.
“I had with me a luggage bag on my way home from Bloemfontein and met an old friend who asked me where I was from. I told him I had left to print t-shirts and he wanted to see them.”
He proceeded to show him and while he was looking, someone from South Africa approached them and instantly fell in love with what they saw and then decided to buy one.
“The rest of the batch, which was 20 T-shirts, was bought by my colleagues at NHTC. Afterwards it was a friend of a friend buying.”
What helped the business boom was an exhibition that was made between 2015 and 2016 around December at Pioneer Mall. It helped LES Apparel be known and then some outlets invited him to sell his merchandise at their shops.
Sales and marketing techniques he applies
Moeketsi uses Facebook to market his products.
“Every company has bad debts but right now I have someone who is in charge of sales, and the outlets.”
He uses a buy-on-the-shelf technique where you can’t get any product without first handing out money.
“It has a disadvantage in that my fear to give out products on credit sometimes hinders potential buyers that could have come as a result of the debtor marketing them. It’s also sad how our people always complain of our prices and always want to bargain all the time. Unless we keep consistency and let people respect that all the time, there’s no way the company will thrive.”
Get LES Apparel here:
- Metcash at FIGRA Trading
- Victoria Hotel at Selections Menswear
On social media
- Facebook: LES Apparel
- Instagram: @les_apparel_12
- Twitter: @LESApparel_12
Outside the country:
- Sebokeng Zone 10