Most of our local fashion designers, with an exception to one or two, fail to make their craft sustainable and commercially viable. What do those who managed to cut through do differently? These are some of the questions that beg to answer the bigger question. What is the real cause of our local fashion industry’s stagnation relative to the world and why are there only few individuals breaking through? These are some of the questions a friend and I raised in one of our “mid-week deep dive over wine” sessions. With further consideration of the industry and interrogation, we concluded on the unfortunate realisation that majority of our designers have limited entrepreneurial skills or loosely put, they are not business savvy. There are countless case studies that prove creativity alone is not sufficient to drive revenue and a build sustainable business model.
However, Laduma Ngxokolo, one of Africa’s finest knitwear designers and the innovator behind MAXHOSA BY LADUMA, a men’s knitwear range inspired by traditional Xhosa beadwork, seems to have the wining formula. Laduma started the brand in 2011; earning him numerous achievements such as the 2015 Vogue Italia Scouting for Africa prize to stealing the hearts of global fashionistas and media from South Africa, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Oslo, Berlin and New York. Since the brand’s inception, Laduma has grown his MAXHOSA BY LADUMA label, expanding his line into carpets, cushions and socks. Laduma has also positioned himself as the leader of the pack, through his numerous collaborations with brands such as Chivas Regal, Sanlam and Nivea.
Chivas Regal approached the PE-born fashion entrepreneur to create their 2016 limited-edition 18 Year Old packaging, resulting in an unapologetically African design: Gold XS adorning a vivid blue background, symbolic of Ngxokolo’s strong Xhosa and brand identity. This year, the brand and the world-renowned fashion designer launched a series of fashion industry-focused talks in each of the major South African cities, all with the aim of “equipping aspiring design entrepreneurs with the knowledge to think bigger than their products and circumstances”.
During this year’s Durban July event, it wasn’t the outrageous fashion or the horses that captured my attention. Instead, it was a stylish cuff that was trending on my Instagram feed, which I later discovered is called the Mna Nam cuff, a collaborative effort between Laduma and Sanlam. The graphic Perspex Mna Nam cuff by Laduma for Sanlam is said to have a seamless “scan to save” mechanism, incorporating a QR code as part of its pattern. The wearer can at any time scan the code to save to a linked WeChat “savings wallet”, powered by Standard Bank.
Skincare brand Nivea has also announced a partnership with the cultural icon, celebrating those who love fashion and embrace it as an expression of their lifestyle. To mark the launch of the NEW Nivea Invisible for Black & White Fresh Mist deodorant, Nivea is giving away limited edition MAXHOSA BY LADUMA T-Shirts to lucky consumers.