Basotho blankets have a number of links to World War 2.
Aranda produces a limited edition of the "Badges of the Brave" blanket, known as the NZ design, which depicts British empire regimental badges from the war, including one with the letters NZ. This has come to be regarded as short for Nazareth, giving it a Christian connotation.
Sometime during or after the war the Spitfire blanket was introduced. The people of Basutoland had collected enough money to pay for 25 Spitfire fighters for the Royal Air Force and they flew as the "Basutoland squadron" in the Battle of Britain. Last year Aranda issued a special limited edition of the Spitfire blanket (pictured above) to commemorate this and Lesotho's 50th anniversary of independence.
Towards the end of the war a textile factory in the Tuscan town of Prato was blown up by Nazi forces as they retreated. The town was liberated by, among others, South African troops under the command of Colonel Arthur Aiken, who persuaded the owners of the textile mill - three brothers - to start again in South Africa. Rodolfo, Giulio and Alberto Magni arrived in 1951 and started Aranda. The mill, still owned by the family, now covers an area equal to 11 football fields and employs more than 700 people.
The Victoria England brand is the only one still owned by AW Hainsworth in the UK, and Aranda has a royalty agreement to manufacture them in South Africa. All the rest were created and owned by Aranda, such as Motlatsi Khosana, created in honour of the birth of Crown Prince Lerotholi Seeiso in 2007. The Kharetsa brand features the spiral aloe only found in the Maluti mountains of Lesotho. Another brand was created in memory of the late Queen Mamohato Bereng Seeiso.
"In the days when I was still with Frasers the late King Moshoeshoe II once called me to the palace in Maseru and expressed his concern that his people were becoming too Westernised," Kritzinger says.
"He gave me some old design ideas, which Queen Mamohato only made popular after his death. There's the Malakabe, using one of the old designs which features flames, and we revived it."
Any new designs introduced have to first have the approval of the Basotho royal family.
Royalties earned from the sale of Victoria England brand blankets are not sent to England but are managed by Aranda purely for the promotion of the brand and to support charities; for example the company has installed or revived 50 "play pumps" at rural schools in Lesotho. These pumps are integrated with playground equipment so that when the children play they also pump water.
"Where some of the pumps fell into disrepair, the schools closed down," Kritzinger says. "We pay rent for advertising boards on the pumps, and that pays for their revival and maintenance."
The blankets are also moving with the times, and are promoted to young people through the royal fashion fair ever year in Lesotho.
"People like Louis Vuitton have looked at them and been inspired," Kritzinger says. "[Fashion designer] Thabo Makhetha in Port Elizabeth has done beautiful work, dresses, capes or jackets, and Unknown Union based in Cape Town has been granted the right to create clothing using the actual blankets. This is a modernisation by younger people who still recognise the beauty of the blankets but want to turn it into a fashion article, and I don't think it's wrong."
At 155cm x 165cm, the blankets are too small to be used as a bed blanket, they are made to be worn. Many people use them as rugs. At 90% wool, they are of the highest quality.
Thanks to the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act trade agreement with the US, Basotho blankets are now being exported and sold there with duty-free status. Some are even sold back to Britain.