Astrid Arndt photography
This is a proudly South African moment for me. Having first encountered Laduma Ngxokolo in the July/ August issue of GQ SA, I have made many attempts to get in touch with him. Finally, we started conversing and I have managed to pick his brain on his innovative knitwear. Needless to say, he has taken the South African fashion industry by storm because his garments and designs are a confluence of modern styling and traditional Xhosa aesthetics. His foray into Xhosa inspired knitwear is as a result of the disconnect he discerned between producing high quality knitwear for Xhosa men and the fact that said knitwear has to be imported. Ngxokolo had young Xhosa men, who go through the rite of passage of circumcision, in mind when he designed his range. He states quite matter-of-factly that "I concentrate on the celebration side of the ritual. After a man is initiated, he gets a whole new wardrobe. I created my range with them in mind."
Ross Adami photography
Having also been the recipient of the prestigious Society and Colourists' 2010 Design Award, MaXhosa sold out at the Design Indaba, and also looks set for inroads into the international scene. Innovative, precocious, eloquent, studious and self-deprecating; in a Perfect Gentleman SA first, it gives me great pleasure to present to you an interview with MaXhosa knitwear founder and designer, Laduma Ngxokolo.
Simon Deiner photography
Q: What is the main inspiration behind Maxhosa knitwear?
During the 2010 Soccer World Cup a collection of traditional Xhosa beadwork dating back to the 1800’s was exhibited in the
in PE. When I saw this collection I just knew it would be the ultimate solution for my 2010 BTech research I was doing at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum at the time. My mission was to develop a range of Xhosa-inspired men’s knitwear for Xhosa initiates to substitute the knitwear styles they are currently wearing for their Xhosa initiation ritual, which bear no resemblance of Xhosa tradition. So in a nutshell, MaXhosa knitwear is inspired by the patterns, hues and the particular colour schemes used in traditional Xhosa beadwork. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Q: Take us through the entire process when making one of your garments?
My design process starts from sourcing inspiration then developing motifs which I will turn into knitwear patterns after that I source mohair and wool yarn locally, knitting up fabric panels to test aesthetics and then produce the final piece.
Q: How have your garments been received in South Africa? Conversely, how have they been received internationally?
My knitwear was very well received in
from all types of race and culture group, I think that was because everyone could somehow relate to the designs because they know where they are rooted and I was obviously there to explain in detail. The collection is at least beginning to draw attention internationally and so far it has surprised many who saw the designs and they can relate to the designs as well because it is something they haven’t seen before. South Africa
Q: You are a strong proponent of buying and supporting local, why is it to important to buy and support local?
The South African textile and fashion manufacturing industry is going through a difficult time every year, tons of jobs are lost when big companies liquidate. With that being said I think it is important for us South African designers to establish distinctive authentic products that can be produced locally, using the resources that are available locally, in my case mohair wool, to create sustainable projects that will not be taken away from us.
Q: What garments comprise Maxhosa knitwear right now?
We’ve got cardigans, pullovers, shawl collar jerseys, v-neck and crewneck jerseys.
Q: Do you plan on expanding into accessories, like scarves, beanies, etc?
For now we’re just specialising in men’s knitwear, but as time passes we would love to stretch the concept to other clothing items like shirts, pants, jackets and even interior accessories.
Q: Men's clothing is expensive in South Africa. What is the price range of your knitwear?
Because the style of my knitwear is quite extravagant, the price range of my collection is between R950 – R2500.
Q: What is your ultimate mission and vision for the future regarding Maxhosa knitwear by Laduma Ngxokolo?
My ultimate long term vision is to establish MaXhosa by Laduma as a premium quality heritage brand that can sell on the local and international market for the next decades.
PG: Man to man, generation to generation.