An Interview with designer Laduma Ngxokolo

By Samsara - Sunday, October 23, 2011

A few weeks ago we wrote on Laduma Ngxokolo of Maxhosa Clothing line. Since then the young designer back from London Fashion Week was pleased to answer a few questions for Samsara. Here is what Laduma had to say...

SB: What is your impression of knitwear today, and how would you explain your design aesthetic?
NGXOKOLO: I think most of today's knitwear is leaning more towards simplicity, which makes them lose character.
My design aesthetics are a modern interpretation of tradition Xhosa aesthetics, it is a way I use to tell the stories of the Xhosa people by making people feel like they are living in that era. I simply do that by using authentic Xhosa colours, motifs, beadwork pieces.

SB: Describe the general process you go through to design and realize one of your pieces?
NGXOKOLO: At the present moment my focus is on traditional Xhosa beadwork, basically I just interpret traditional Xhosa beadwork into motifs and then knit samples to see how it interacts with the environment. Before I make the final garment I ask for feedback from friends, strangers and family members. From then on I go out and hunt for the right colour and material, in most cases I use mohair and merino wool which I source from local spinning mills.

SB: What's your favorite part about conceptualizing a design?
NGXOKOLO: My best part of conceptualizing a design is when I modify traditional Xhosa motifs in a modern way that would appeal to the viewers and still recognizable as an authentic Xhosa aesthetic.

SB: Do you work on a hand machine like your mom used or a new age machine? What are the pros and cons of each machine?
NGXOKOLO:  I use a hand knitting machine for my knitwear which is the same model that my late mother used. Hand knitting machines require a lot of human execution compared to industrial machines do everything automatically that is programmed in it, so my assistant knitters really have to concentrate when they knit. 

SB: How do you balance the beading and masculinity in your sweaters?
NGXOKOLO: Beadwork motifs are technically structured in a geometric way, so that works at my advantage for designing men's knitwear because men are more drawn to geometric structures and that makes it convenient for me to design for man. 

SB: Describe some of the overwhelming responses you have received from the fashion industry, and share with us who some of those individuals are?
NGXOKOLO: Despite winning the Best Emerging Designer of the year award from Marie Claire Magazine, being nominated for designing 1 of the 10 most beautiful objects in South Africa and nominated for designer of the year by Ikusasa Awards. One of the most epic response I got were from my community members, neighbours, family members, friends and even strangers who continuously say to me thank you for being a voice for us.  

SB: Now that you have shown at fashion week, I am sure the number of high end designer that are interested in collaborating with you have increased. Do you intend on collaborating with them or concentrating on building the MaXhosa brand?
NGXOKOLO: Well I did get a couple of invites for collaboration from high end South African  designers but I decided that I want to build my own brand first so that I can be well established, get more experience before I can collaborate with these designers that I look up to. Secondly I wanted to preserve the integrity of the brand I established MaXhosa which acknowledges the Xhosa people. But otherwise I am considering to collaborate with other designers in the future.

SB: Do you and your sister have any collaborations planned for the future?
NGXOKOLO: Yes definitely! We are planning to work together once we are established as individuals because we grew up together and love almost the same things, our work sort of has the same ambiance.

SB: List one short term and one long term goal for the MaXhosa brand.
NGXOKOLO: Our short term goal is to win the local South African market that is saturated by brand driven clothing, we believe that they need to be more educated about ethics behind buying clothes.
  Our long term goal is to build loyalty with our target market while we still remain true to our aesthetics, vision and we want to contribute to growth in the South African agriculture, textile and clothing industries.

SB: What is the most important advice you can give young designers and entrepreneurs?
NGXOKOLO: I think in order for a designer or entrepreneur to fullfill their ambition, one needs to follow what their heart is feeling at that moment cause it is the driver that leads one towards their destininy. 

SB: Samsara question we ask everyone: What do you prefer? Cre-8, Origin-8, Elev-8?
NGXOKOLO: Definitely Origin-8

SB: That was well said and we thank you for our time
NGXOKOLO: Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you. Have a great day.

A picture from London Fashion Week Maxhosa Brand

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