Beautiful underwear doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. And too often, men have influenced what clothes women wear. Next up in our Limitless series celebrating women working in male-dominated industries, this first-time entrepreneur is building a fashion empire with her intimate understanding of what women want.

Mitchell Van Der Est founded her custom lingerie line, Rosa Carter in 2016. At the time it was simply a personal DIY project to create a bralette that was comfortable to wear. Since then, it has grown into a reputable brand, fuelled by demand from both friends and strangers.

Mitchell and Rosa Carter's lead model Sesame

It’s easy to underestimate the value of well-made underwear that fits properly. Perhaps, like many things related to women and what brings them joy, it can feel frivolous to place importance on undergarments. But there is nothing more torturous and masochistic than ill-fitting underwear. As if the burden of the misogyny that demands women be perpetually prim and proper isn’t bad enough.

“You have to take risks,” says the 24-year-old. “Calculated risks and leaps of faith.” For her, the leap of faith would be a dive into the world of manufacturing. Fortunately, her home town of Mahalapye is a large town where textile and small tool manufacturing are key industries. Another leap of faith would be whether a business of this nature could stay afloat and grow in Botswana. It seems like it was worth taking.

The establishment of Rosa Carter came a year after Mitchell had gone to study Chinese Language and Literature at Binhai University in China. Back in Botswana, she found herself more open in heart and mind to future possibilities. When she saw how popular her design was, she started producing orders. “You need to move forward, make bold decisions and explore opportunities!”

It’s a vulnerable, honest moment and a dismissal of hustle culture.

“Everything is handmade, my customers know that and as a result are patient with me and my process” she says. “We get a lot of referrals and new customers through word of mouth. People know they’re gonna get quality and they vouch for it.” What makes Rosa Carter apparel special – apart from the beauty of the pieces – is how adaptable it is to the form of each customer. Peruse their designs, and you will be presented with a myriad of body shapes and sizes, in all shades. To be a Rosa Carter girl is to simply be one interested in pretty things, made specially for you.

Prototypes of designs are shared on the brand’s social media profiles to signal the start of taking orders. It’s not uncommon for pieces to be sold out in a matter of weeks. “I used to believe in working overtime, I’d work on weekends and miss out on important things like time with family,” she shares “It led to me burning out and shutting down. Now I make it a point to prioritize health and rest and make sure I have two straight days of relaxation.”

It’s a vulnerable, honest moment and a dismissal of hustle culture. It’s an acknowledgement that working yourself to death won’t make success come faster but instead only hasten your own wear and tear.

As the Rosa Carter brand grows, it’ll be interesting to see how the team continues to deliver what makes them a grassroots runaway success story: their focus on tailoring their garments to each individual. Van Der Est is positive: “I’m fortunate to get back the care I put into my garments, from my customers and I know we’ll grow together and reach new heights.”

With thanks to Africa No Filter who made this series possible.