JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s preeminent knitwear designer Laduma Ngxokolo is on a mission to expand his brand’s footprint, MaXhosa by Laduma, across Africa and the world as there’s a growing demand for his modern Xhosa-inspired knitwear collection.
Ngxokolo, who is originally from Port Elizabeth but now lives in Johannesburg, established the clothing brand in 2010 with the desire to explore knitwear design solutions that would be suitable for amakrwala, Xhosa initiates.
“The vision was to create a modern Xhosa-inspired knitwear collection that would be suitable for amakrwala, who are prescribed by tradition to dress up in new dignified formal clothing for six months after their manhood initiation,’ says Ngxokolo.
He says as a person who has undergone the process, there was a felt need to develop premium knitwear that celebrates traditional Xhosa aesthetics.
“Along my journey into exploring astonishing traditional Xhosa beadwork patterns, symbolism and colours, I discovered that they would be the best source of inspiration for the knitwear, which is then reinterpreted into modern knitwear.”
MaXhosa by Laduma was thrust into the spotlight recently after a new sock range from global clothing retailer Zara sparked outrage for allegedly copying the brand’s signature diamond-shaped designs.
Ngxokolo says their aspirations are to be the leading lifestyle brand in Africa. The brand’s flagship store is in Newtown Junction Mall. Various stockists of MaXhosa by Laduma items include Luminance in Sandton and Hyde Park, and True Story and Zulu Boutique, which are both situated at the OR Tambo International Airport. The Merchants on Long in Cape Town also stocks MaXhosa by Laduma items. Ngxokolo’s collection is wide and varied and includes cardigans, socks, shawls, shorts, skirts, and rugs, among others.
US stars who proudly wear MaXhosa by Laduma items, among others, include award-winning singer Alicia Keys and hip-hop artist and producer Swizz Beatz, who visited Ngxokolo’s Newton Junction Mall outlet during his visit to South Africa earlier this year.
However, Ngxokolo says he doesn’t think it’s about the stars who wear their items more than expanding their reach.
“We have many patrons in the States, who buy our items and are shipped to them. There various outlets that stock our products globally such as Onychek in New York.”
The United Arrows outlet in Tokyo, Japan, also stocks MaXhosa by Laduma items.
Ngxokolo recently returned from London where he was among the keynote speakers at The Costume Institute of the African Diaspora.
“The talk was (about) brands growth and future visions (and) also what we can teach the world when it comes to our textiles and garments as well as our traditions,” says Ngxokolo, who hold a Btech degree in textile design from Nelson Mandela University and a Masters degree in material futures from Central Saint Martins University in London.
MaXhosa by Laduma has been showcased in many international and national fashion shows. Ngxokolo says they are an important part of their strategy as they alert clients and the general public to their next collections and what to look out for.
“It is a platform that is a norm in the fashion industry. It is more important that we always start our showcases in our country, as that makes a bold statement that our people support us the most, before the world,” says Ngxokolo, a personal friend of the world renowned DJ Black Coffee.
The string of awards he’s won include the Most Stylish Designer: SA Style Awards, Fashion Designer of the Year Southern Africa: ABRYANZ Style and Fashion Awards, and the Design Indaba Most Beautiful Object in South Africa Award, all achieved in 2016.
In 2017, he was awarded with the Pride of Africa accolade at the Africa Fashion Week Barcelona Awards.
Ngxokolo, who has received numerous achievements and awards from countries including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Oslo, Berlin and New York, says he now plans to visit more African countries because “we have so much to offer the world”.
Ngxokolo says his journey to the top has not been as easy one at all and that it gets challenging daily.
“It took personal time, capital, travelling as well as many sleepless nights at the beginning. One must be able to use sweat as capital to kick start their own ideas,” proffers Ngxokolo, noting that plans are in the pipeline to push the brand across Africa and take it to the world as “there is a demand that is increasing”.
“We aim to follow our core aspiration, as it is to be the leading lifestyle brand in Africa. This is our strategic vision for the coming years. What I care most about the brand, is seeing it transform people’s lives and the opportunity to change the African narrative,” says Ngxokolo.
- BUSINESS REPORT