BASOTHO HERITAGE BLANKETS: THE ORIGINS
THE BASOTHO HERITAGE BLANKET has a rich, fabled history dating back over 100 years. Originally developed to be worn as an alternative to the traditional leopard skin or “kaross”, the Basotho Heritage Blanket is built to weather the harsh winds and rains of Lesotho’s mountain kingdom. Tightly woven of 50% Virgin Merino Wool weft and 50% Dralon, this blanket withstands both the elements and the test of time.
The story of the Basotho Heritage Blanket begins with the father of Lesotho, King Moshoeshoe I. In 1860, King Moshoeshoe was presented a wool blanket as a gift. He was very taken with it, and soon abandoned his traditional leopard skin kaross in favor of the blanket. The Basotho people soon followed their leader and to this day, the blanket is an integral part of their lives from birth until death. It is an essential feature of all important life events, from marriage and childbirth to the coronation of kings.
In 1865, when Queen Victoria offered her protection to Moshoeshoe’s kingdom at his request, he spoke of her “spreading her blanket” over his country. The Basotho Heritage Blanket has been woven into the fabric of the Lesotho nation since its very beginnings and continues to be today.
THE BASOTHO HERITAGE BLANKET COLLECTIONS
Victoria England is the oldest of the Basotho blanket range. In 1897, Queen Victoria visited what was then Basutoland during her Jubilee year. She gave King Lerotholi Letsie a blanket as a gift. He draped the blanket, poncho-style, over his shoulders and thus began the blanket wearing tradition. The Basotho people had a great love and respect for Queen Victoria and the Victoria England blanket has become a sought after status symbol.
The characteristic pinstripe originally a weaving fault has become a unique part of the design and dictates how the blanket is worn. When worn in the traditional manner, the pin-stripe always runs vertically symbolizing growth.
The Victoria England Collection includes Badges Of The Brave, Crest, Crown, Spitfire, Malekable and Skin. A selection of colorways of each design are available in our shop.
Kharetsa is named after the spiral aloe which is only found in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho. This rare Aloe plant cannot survive outside its natural habitat. Though widely sought for ornamental purposes, it is actually a criminal offence in Lesotho and South Africa to remove or purchase the Spiral Aloe plant or its seeds. The aloe is prominently featured in the centre of the design. It is surrounded by iconic Basotho hat and shield motifs.
Kharestsa is available in our shop in a variety of colorways.
Seanamarena is considered the Royal Crown Jewel of the heritage blankets and dates back to the 1930’s. The Seanamarena designs originated from the shop of the same name, based in Leribe, Lesotho. These designs were available exclusively at the Seanamarena shop and the lines outside at the launch of a new colorway would dwarf those outside Supreme or a premium Nike dealer. The word ‘Seanamarena’ means ‘to swear by the Chiefs’. The Collection features the famous Poone design with its corncob motif. In Basotho culture the corncob is a symbol of fertility and wealth.
The Seanamarena Collection includes Poone (Maize) and Chromatic. A selection of colorways of each are available in our shop.
The Motlatsi was created to honour the birth of Crown Prince Lerotholi in 2007. The design features a collection of elaborate hearts which symbolise the love of the Basotho people for the Royal Family. The word Motlatsi means successor in title.
Motlatsi will be available in our shop in BLACK/NATURAL AND SCARLET ONLY.
- PAST AND PRESENT -
Originally manufactured in England by Wormald and Walker Blanket Mills, local production of the Basotho Heritage Blankets didn't begin until the 1920's. For many years, dating back to the late 1800's, Frasers Limited was the primary distributor, and sometimes manufacturer of the blankets. When Fraser's went bankrupt in the early 1990's, there was a real danger that Basotho Heritage Blankets would cease to be manufactured altogether, and indeed for one full year this was the case. Fortunately, the oldest blanket manufacturer in Africa, stepped in and acquired the rights to the original Basotho Heritage Blanket designs and has been manufacturing them ever since.
RANDFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA
The Basotho heritage blankets are manufactured by a fourth generation family business in Randfontein, South Africa, near Johannesburg- first opening in 1953 and despite constant growth and improvements, the facility has been in constant operation on the same 17-acre location ever since. Now a fourth generation owned and operated family business, the factory was originally founded in 1950 by Dr. Rodolfo Magni when he and much of his family were forced to flee Italy in the aftermath of world war ii. All of their Italian factories were destroyed under the "scorched earth policy". Rather than rebuild in Wartorn Italy, Dr. Magni took the bold step of starting over in South Africa. Previous to immigrating to South Africa, the Magni family had been active in the manufacture of textiles since the 1890’s, and exported their goods all over the world from their factories in Prato, Italy. Though proudly south African, the Magni family brings over 100 years of Italian attention to detail and quality to every product they manufactures.
The factory utilizes a completely vertical operating structure. This means every single textile or blanket is created from scratch. From the local and international sourcing of raw materials, spinning that into yarn, dying the yarn into fabric, and then finally finishing it into the softest, warmest and most durable blankets available. The factory thrives on innovation in technology and design, and the Basotho heritage blankets have only improved in quality since first being manufactured over 100 years ago.
Though respectful of their Italian roots, the factory is a proudly South African company, with over 63 years growing, evolving and thriving within a dynamic South African political and economic landscape.
They are also an important and ethical source of employment in the textile industry, being the only fully vertical blanket manufacturing operation currently operating on the continent.
INTEGRITY AND SUSTAINABILITY
All Basotho heritage blankets are proudly union made in South Africa. Employing over 700 people and paying them above industry standard, the factory adheres to, and proudly exceeds, the most stringent and worker friendly regulations in the developing world.
All of the wool is sourced from South African farms empowering and supporting independent farmers as one of the largest consumers of wool in southern Africa. Given the vast global demand for wool, particularly from the far east, this often means paying a premium price to support local producers. All spinning/dyeing of wool, acrylic and cotton yarns is handled in house via the vertical manufacturing operation.
The Basotho Heritage Blankets have been made in various compositions over the last 100 years and the decision was recently made to evolve into to a 50% Virgin Merino Wool / 50% Dralon blend with the full approval and support of the Lesotho Royal Family. The reason for this change in quality was two-fold. Firstly, the global price of wool has risen so high that an increase in the price of the blankets was necessary. This put them out of reach, from a price standpoint, of the very people of Lesotho who depend on them for their traditional way of life. Secondly, the introduction of Dralon, the world's highest quality acrylic fiber, carries a wide range of benefits such as increased detail in the Heritage and Modern designs, greater durability, water-resistance and superior anti-pilling qualities. This results in a superior product in terms of hand feel, color and strength that is also more accessible to both the Sotho people and customers worldwide. The vibrant colors of the Heritage designs, the soft hand feel and the warmth have not been compromised in any way by this change. In fact, they have been enchanced, offering a higher quality product and representation of the original designs at a lower price.
Additionally, Dralon places a huge emphasis on environmental protection and its yarns are considerably more ecologically friendly than many natural fibers. For example, while it requires 25,000 liters (6,600 gallons) of water to produce one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of Cotton, one kilogram of Dralon consumes only 5 liters (1.3 gallons).
The factory is fully certified as an ethical and sustainable supplier by Sedex (the supplier ethical data exchange.)
Regarding international trade, the manufacturer is fully supported and certified in the United States the African growth and opportunity act or agoa. Agoa was enacted in 2000 to help improve the economies of Sub-Saharan African countries by offering preferential trade status on exports into the united states. In order to qualify and remain eligible for agoa, each country must be working to improve its rule of law, human rights and respect for core labor standards. Agoa has been credited with creating 100,000s of new jobs in the textile industry, particularly in Lesotho and South Africa. Agoa was recently renewed, insuring duty free status for Basotho heritage blankets into the united states until 2025.
Additionally, South Africa is party to a trade, development and cooperation agreement with the European union, insuring duty free exports to Europe under the eur1 program.