As we commemorate Youth Month and remember the heroes of 1976 in Soweto were game changers for South Africa’s future. We also celebrate another young person who is a game-changer, in a similar fashion with that of the youth of 1976. Laduma Ngxokolo is a young South African clothing designer who incorporates his own Xhosa culture into his knitwear designs. He started his brand MAXHOSA by Laduma in early 2011 with a thirst to find knitwear design solutions for amakrwala (Xhosa initiates). His 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 initiation. As a person who has undergone that process himself, he felt that he had to develop knitwear that genuinely depicts his cultural aesthetics. Along his journey into exploring astonishing traditional Xhosa beadwork craft, patterns, tribal symbolism and colours he discovered that they would be the best inspiration for his knitwear, which he then incorporated into modern knitwear and has since continued to captivate audiences both locally and internationally.
Laduma uses locally sourced textiles like Mohair and uses the patterns found in traditional African beadwork as his inspiration. Recently Laduma has branched out to include patterned rugs, cushions and blankets. This year, he expanded his brand even more by starting a women’s line called ‘Buyele’mbo’.
Laduma Ngxokolo is from Port Elizabeth and he studied textile design and technology at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. He was taught hand machine knitting by his late mother, Lindelwa Ngxokolo in Grade 8 and he has been doing knitwear as a hobby since his days in high school as it was also one of his subjects.
In 2010, he did his BTech and wrote his thesis project on ‘finding innovative designs for Xhosa initiatives to wear’. 2010 was also the year he started his knitwear brand and by using his thesis project he entered an international competition called “The Society of Dyers and Colourists” and won, which was a big turning point for him. This gave him the opportunity to speak about his project at Design Indaba Conference 2011 one of the most critically acclaimed design conferences held in Cape Town every year, which led to a lot of positive press coverage. This ultimately helped him establish his knitting brand in February 2011. In July 2013 another big turning point came, a showcase of his 2013 range My Heritage My Inheritance in Paris. “It was one of my most overwhelming moments. My mom always wanted us to go to Paris. She was obsessed with Paris. I felt that I fulfilled her fantasy in a way, through me, whatever she desired as a young black women living in South African, it was done though me, that’s why I dedicated the collection to her,” he says.
In May this year Laduma and his sister Tina Ngxokolo, also a fashion designer, were sharing a platform with some of the world’s greatest designers at the “What Design Can Do” conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands, with designers from the UK, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden and the Netherlands and the British fashion icon Sir Paul Smith a guest speaker at the event.
Some of his plans for the near future are to have MaXhosa concept stores Johannesburg, Cape Town, London and Paris.
We wish Laduma Ngxokolo all the very best in his endeavors, he is one young person that is making African Culture in general and Xhosa Culture in particular relevant in the 21st century and has shown that there is a lot we can learn from our past that would help us carve a path as we move forward… MaXhosa – My Heritage My Inheritance.