Meet Frances van Hasselt, Mohair Rug Designer

Frances van Hasselt is an entrepreneur with a focus on developing African textiles. We spoke to her to learn more about her career and how she got into this line of work.

Frances van Hasselt is an entrepreneur with a focus on developing African textiles. We spoke to her to learn more about her career and how she got into this line of work. 

Coming from a family who farm with one of the oldest Angora goat studs in the Karoo, she has always had a close affinity to the fibre and she dreamed of creating quality mohair end products locally.

Frances completed her Post-Graduate degree in International Relations before spending three years working in Hong Kong. Starting out as an English teacher, she soon moved into the fashion industry working in the design and merchandising team at Li & Fung.

When I returned to South Africa I spent a short stint in corporate fashion. During my time working in the fashion industry, I became increasingly aware of how special mohair is” Frances shared. “I began questioning why one of the world’s most ancient, exclusive and sustainable natural fibres was relatively unknown, particularly in South Africa, which produces the majority of the world’s mohair.”

Frances became determined to produce a local product that highlights mohair’s unique qualities, ultimately resulting in the establishment of Frances V.H Mohair Rugs. 

I love the creative process of designing and how some ideas unfold after endless hours of development, whilst others fly at you mid-sentence. Being surrounded by innovative entrepreneurs and creatives in a time when the African art and design scene is attracting significant attention is hugely exciting and requires you to develop exceptional product that can hold its own on a global platform.

She adds “The Africa Rising movement is tingling-ly intoxicating; showcasing raw narratives that are refreshing, powerful and increasingly appealing to a growing, engaged local & international audience.”

Frances is incredibly proud of their completely local supply chain, from raw fibre to the finished rugs. She tell us that it has been a privilege to work with a passionate and dynamic team, developing a business that provides sustainable employment and preserves traditional craftsmanship in remote areas of the country.

We created a platform for women in rural communities to have their products exposed to an appreciative market that ultimately drives sales, secures income and reaffirms the value of indigenous knowledge transferal to the next generation” Frances says. 

Frances stresses the importance of listening to others so that they listen to you. "Celebrate people’s successes, rather than compare and compete and believe in yourself and what if you do, because if you don’t others won’t."

“We spend the large majority of our time at work, best you spend it doing something that makes you feel all the feelings; challenges, stimulates, makes you laugh, allows you to give back, grow and create something that makes you feel proud to have been a part of.”

She advises that those of you working in the creative industry surround yourself with mentors and sources that help you understand good business practices. “Our Cultural and Creative Industries have the potential to be massive contributors to South Africa’s economy, but this can only happen when they are linked to the right market place

Frances believes that if we look at what needs fixing in our textile industry we are met with endless opportunity for innovation and creative enterprises. “Only when we start recognising the skills that are unique to the socio-economic make up of our local textile industry can we start to compete, collaborate and work with the rest of the world in creating quality end products that people want; not just because it has an African story but because they are quite simply exceptional”.

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