South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo showcased his collection from Maxhosa Knitwear as part of the Ubuntu International Project at the Vauxhall Fashion Scout last September. The Ubuntu International Project is an organisation that provides a platform for South African designers to showcase their creations to an international market during one of the most important fashion events of the year London Fashion Week. Showing alongside other South African designers such as Stiaan Louw and Heni Este-Hijzen, Laduma brought to London a true mix of the modern and the traditional.
Inspiration for the collection came to Laduma through his roots in the Xhosa community in South Africa. When an Xhosa man is initiated into manhood it is tradition for him to get rid of or even burn all his old clothes and replace them with new ones to represent the coming of a new age and stage of life. Often premium brand knitwear is top of the list, including Pringle jumpers and argyle prints. Laduma felt it was a shame to go through such a tribally embedded rite-of-passage only to come out the other side dressed in Pringle. And so Laduma decided to create his own brand of knitwear to provide an alternative to the argyle trend and one that more appropriately reflected the pride and culture of the Xhosa people.
The inspiration for the designs themselves comes from the intricate traditional beadwork of the Xhosa. In an interview with the Perfect Gentleman blog Laduma explains “During the 2010 Soccer World Cup a collection of traditional Xhosa beadwork dating back to the 1800’s was exhibited in the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum 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 University 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.” Laduma found the geometric nature of the beadwork worked exceptionally well with knitwear and particularly enjoyed playing around with these patterns and colours, so much so that he introduced a platinum collection with even more elaborate designs than the premium (main) collection.
(Image from http://www.africanknitwear.com/)
As well as striving to preserve Xhosa traditional designs through his knitwear, Laduma also hopes to help invigorate the South African textile and garment industry with his designs and business. He has a strong focus on sourcing locally, using materials that are readily and reliably available in South Africa such as mohair and wool.
Through the Ubuntu International Project Laduma created an awareness that helped to make his brand truly global and therefore help him to be able to tell his story around the world and showing that traditional cultures have a the potential to actually connect people from all over. He aims to develop a supply chain for his knitwear that will distribute it far and wide allowing the Xhosa culture to be celebrated anywhere and everywhere.
Maxhosa Knitwear is a perfect example of how traditions and modern life can be married together to create amazing style, preserving culture and pride in completely modern and forward looking way. We wish Laduma all the best at the Vauxhall fashion scout show this weekend and recommend you pop down if you’re in London this weekend, for more info and how to register check out their facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ubuntu-International-Project/275612955784766.