On Wednesday the 16th of September 2020, global luxury brand MaXhosa AFRICA, created by Laduma Ngxokolo, presented their Spring/Summer 2021 Collection called “INGUMANGALISO IMISEBENZI KA THIXO” or “God’s Work is Miraculous”, during New York Fashion Week.
Laduma 2021 collection is one of Africa’s finest, and most intriguing designers he didn’t disappoint on the virtual stage! He presented what we would call his best work, thus far. MaXhosa’s aim is to become Africa’s leading luxury lifestyle brand presented a collection of eclectic prints and patterns that utilise African traditions to swift through its pieces. The collection is titled after a song composed and titled by Laduma’s late paternal grandfather, Mike Ngxokolo, who was a renowned jazz artist, choral music composer, visual artist, actor, and radio presenter.
MaXhosa Africa is a South African knitwear brand founded in 2012. This was with the desire to explore knitwear design solutions that would be suitable for amakrwala (Xhosa initiates). His initial vision was to create a modern Xhosa-inspired knitwear collection that would be suitable for this market. As a person who has undergone the process, Laduma felt that he had to develop premium knitwear that celebrates traditional Xhosa aesthetics.
Laduma encourages people to be at their happiest during this time. “During the lockdown, in the midst of sadness, I thought it was very important to give people hope with my craft. I wanted to showcase happiness so that people would feel very excited about next summer,” says Laduma.
Expressing that happiness is the luxury and hopeful that this collection will encourage everyone to be mindful of our blessings despite the odds that we have faced in 2020. “God’s work is so wonderful that we don’t even acknowledge how powerful it is,” he says.
When Laduma Ngxokolo’s mother Lindelwa taught him to knit, she sparked a love of fashion that inspired him to become a designer. Today her son’s collections are showcased on the catwalks of Europe’s fashion capitals.
MORE ABOUT LADUMA NGXOKOLO
How it all started
As a person who has undergone the ritual, he felt that he needed to develop a premium knitwear range that celebrates traditional Xhosa beadwork aesthetics, using South African mohair and wool. Since then, Laduma has received numerous achievements and captures the hearts of many fashion lovers and media from South Africa, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Oslo, Berlin, and New York.
When he was in Grade 8, Lindelwa sat Ngxokolo down and taught him how to use the family knitting machine. Knitting became his hobby and changed his life. He went on to study textile design and technology at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth.
“I was influenced greatly by my mother as I grew up doing craftwork and beadwork with her,” he told digital publishing company Between 10 and 5 in an interview. “I believe that that was the beginning of my design experience.”
His 2010 thesis project revolved around innovation. Inspired by traditional Xhosa patterns he designed a range for initiates to wear. This project was the first stitch in his knitwear company – MaXhosa by Laduma – and also his winning submission to an international design competition sponsored by the Society of Dyers and Colourists.
“This gave me the opportunity to speak about my project at Design Indaba 2011, which led to a lot of positive press coverage. It ultimately helped me establish my knitting brand in February 2011.”
His own Xhosa initiation, in 2011, confirmed to Laduma that there is a market for his brand. “I felt that the outfits for the initiation ritual were too westernised. Xhosa initiation is a traditional ritual and even though we are all living in a modern time, I felt that there should still be an element that resembles the Xhosa culture.”
Laduma’s creations are inspired by his Xhosa background and the local mohair industry. Visits to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum helped him discover the richness and creativity of Xhosa cultural beadwork. Incorporating those designs into his own work has helped him celebrate and preserve his own cultural identity.
“I also decided to use mohair from my hometown and discovered that Port Elizabeth has the biggest mohair industry in the world, and has the biggest wool industry in Africa. So, I decided to take advantage of the local material, which is usually exported.”
Laduma was fortunate in his choice of university. He arrived in the year the institution set up an Art and Design Incubator. NMMU provided him with seed capital to start MaXhosa, but his ongoing success is also a result of his talent and hard work.
His sister Tina, also a designer, has become one of Laduma’s collaborators at MaXhosa. According to the MaXhosa blog, he has also worked with several Norwegian entrepreneurs, and given the chance to showcase their joint creations in Norway.
In 2014 he won a WeTransfer-sponsored two-year scholarship to study for a Masters in Material Futures at London’s prestigious Central St Martins of the University of the Arts.
That same year he received a standing ovation for his Buyel’mbo women’s range at Johannesburg Fashion Week. He described this local appreciation as overwhelming, even more than being identified as 2015’s Vogue Italia Scouting for Africa prize winner.
According to the international news broadcasting agency BBC, most of his sales are from Merchants on Long in Cape Town.
MaXhosa recently launched a store in Cape Town.