A Duo In A Quest To Confront Societal Standards

We live in a world that sets beauty standards for women. A world that dictates what women should wear and how they should wear it. This is a world that tells us that summer has a “body”.

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By Mbali Nkosi and Tiisetso Tsambo
Images by Leon Sihle Loni

Mbali “Mimi” Nkosi and Tiisetso “Setso” Tsambo are  a dynamic duo from Mofolo in Soweto, south of Johannesburg. Through their brand, MimixSetso, they are on a quest to defy societal standards of what is considered as “beauty” or an “appropriate” fashion style for their bodies. 

The pair – who are now 23 years old – have been friends since around the ages of five or six. As they narrate, to fully embrace their body shapes in the truest and majestic form has been a journey characterised by sombreness.

Growing up, we both experienced different levels of body shaming and bullying. I, Mimi, grew up plus size and was often bullied about my weight. I was often labelled as fat. People would often tell me what to wear to suit my “body shape”. The body shaming went as far as being told to cover up and dress “appropriately” for my body. This level of audacity of being approached by strangers telling me how best to express and present myself through fashion sense is – and has always been – loathsome.

On the other hand, I, Setso, suffered second degree burns throughout my body as a toddler. This is an ordeal that has become a part of my identity and I have invariably been self-conscious about. Although I didn’t get bullied about my scars, I was never comfortable in my body because of how different my skin was compared to my peers. To top it all off, I  had eczema, too.

We grew tired of being shamed and of lack of confidence about our looks. Frankly speaking, we were fed up with society’s expectations and being dictated on what and how to dress.

This is how MimixSetso came about. We randomly came across body positive models’ content on social media and we loved the concept of wearing what might be deemed “controversial”. Yet, we do not really associate our brand with controversy. We have photoshoots where we wear the same piece of clothing to depict how it looks on two different body types and different skin tones. Remember the aim is to be confident in your body and skin!

We aim at expressing ourselves to the maximum without any sense of trepidation to be told that our outfits are not socially acceptable.

Mimi is a Public Relations student at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) and works as an intern at the Centre for Academic Development at VUT. But she also has a deep love for food, hence an aspiring chef. Setso is also a Public Relations graduate at the Independent Institute of Education (IIE) Rosebank College and podcast host of the Sessions with Setso

Together we share an endearing passion for modelling. Although some perceive us as “body positive activists”, rather we are far from the contrary; we aim at expressing ourselves to the maximum without any sense of trepidation to be told that our outfits are not socially acceptable.

Such confidence without any shimmer is an epic liberation. You, too, if you have not yet garnered the strength, pursue this freedom with aggression. You have nothing to lose. Perhaps, only fear. 

The vision is bigger than us

When we started MimixSetso, we only had an idea of the type of content we wanted to create, but not the full vision for our brand. We realised that for us to execute our idea we would need to fund our photoshoots by ourselves because our parents did not see the vision and were not willing to invest in something they did not see succeeding. 

We had to start by finding a photographer who would work with us during our shoots and assist to grow our brand. Next, we had to figure out outfits and shoot locations. For outfits we turned to Rea Thipe, a stylist and owner of Royal Run. There are no limits to the locations, concepts and even outfits, whatever we feel comfortable in and with, we go with it!

Since our launch in September 2020, the reception we got from the public has been overwhelming. But it has not all been glory. At times, life gets in the way of things and we must take a step back, rethink, and gather our thoughts for the next move.  

It is what happened to us a year ago when we decided to go for an intermission. During our break, we made some few changes to our brand, such as adjusting our brand not only to be based on photographs with items of clothing. Instead, we are more artistic in our approach. We are not afraid to be abstract. 

MimixSetso is ready to take the continent by storm! The vision is bigger than us. So if we do not make it, someone else must continue the struggle of self realisation and pride of our bodies. 

Follow them on Instagram for more visuals.

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