Mimi Mvakali in a floral skirt by Arato. Picture: Austin Malema.
IOL Fashion chats to Lerato Moloi, a 23-year-old fashion designer graduate from the Tshwane University of Technology, who is ready to take the fashion industry by storm.

Who is Lerato Moloi?

My name is Lerato Moloi, mostly known as Lee Mvakali. I am a passionate and self-driven 23-year-old fashion designer who was born and raised in the soul of Gauteng, also known as the East Rand.

How would you describe yourself?

I would like to describe myself as an introvert, even though those who know me well would beg to differ. This is why I would have to agree that I have a crazy side, a crazvert (if such a word even exists).

Lerato Moloi, founder of Arato. 

What is your educational background?

I completed my matric in 2013 at Boksburg High School, and obtained my national diploma in Fashion Design at Tshwane University of Technology.

One would think that you would know everything about the industry after completing the course, but unfortunately this is fake news. School just teaches you the basics, and everything else you have to learn by yourself.

Please tell us a bit about your life as a fashion designer. How did that come about?

My life as a fashion designer has been quite the ride. I would not say I always wanted to be a fashion designer. I was aware of my creative and artistic abilities, even though art was not part of my chosen subjects in high school.

My interest in fashion sparked when I was 17.

I was inspired by a few designs created by an art student I went to school with, which then persuaded me to compile my own book of designs.

From then on, I made up my mind about my career path, and that is where it all started.

I have been told countless times that we have enough clothes in this world and that I should look into something else.

Funnily enough, none of those words came from family. My parents have been very supportive of everything I do, and even if I do say so myself, my mom is one of my biggest fans.

Thato Rantseli looking beautiful in a dress by Arato. Picture: 

When was your brand, Arato launched and what was the motive behind it?

The name “Arato” comes from my six-year-old cousin Leago Mojapelo, who could not pronounce my name "Lerato". She caught me at a time where I was writing down a few name ideas, and she so happened to call out my name, and I was hooked.

Even though Arato came about in 2016, the brand was registered only in April last year.

How would you describe the style offered by Arato?

Arato is a brand that embraces style, class, quality, and customer satisfaction. I would like to think my clothes make a statement without having to say a single word. You cannot go unnoticed in Arato, The clothing is tailor-made for you to own the spotlight.

Nolo Seabi styled by Arato. 

How has the brand grown and how would you like to see it grow further?

As an individual and a brand, there has been immense growth. This year so far has been good for Arato and it will get only better.

I would like to see Arato reach the masses. It is all about securing the bags this year, and with that said, there will be more in store as I would like to produce more clothing for clients to purchase off the shelf if not online, rather than just focusing on custom-made clothing.

What is unique about Arato and what is bringing to the fashion industry?

As creatives, our personalities differ and that is what makes us different and unique. There will be someone who has the same ideas, but at the end of the day it all boils down to execution.

Lerato Moloi looking stylish in bell-bottom pants with matching cropped top designed by her. 

What are you working on?

Graduations and matric dance gowns. I will be working more on ready-to-wear garments in the next few months.

What can people expect from Arato this year?

Appearance. I am coming to make my mark in the industry and people can expect to see more of Arato. I promised to work my butt off this year.

Any style/fashion tips?

“Style is very personal. It has nothing to do with fashion. Fashion is over quickly. Style is forever.” - Ralph Lauren.

-Pictures: Austin Malema.