Xhosa design a hit on global catwalks
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. And earlier this year he walked away with the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa Award at the 2016 Design Indaba.
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 Colorists.
“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 Ngxokolo 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.”