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Ngxokolo in the Jo’burg factory; knitting machines create the fabrics from sourced materials; only natural wool and mohair are used

ELLE Decoration’s Assistant Editor Ntombenhle Shezi sits down with Laduma Ngxokolo to find out more about his inspiration, goals and his vision for MaXhosa by Laduma.

Where do you go to find inspiration?

As a creative and entrepreneur, it’s important to adapt to the changing times, but whenever I need to feel grounded, I go home to Port Elizabeth. It’s an important place for me, full of resonance, and it’s there that I’m able to connect with a lot of people and experience a different energy that I don’t feel anywhere else in the world. Also going abroad on business trips always refreshes my way of thinking, as well as visiting museums and galleries, with New York’s Museum of Modern Art being one of my favourites.

Do you celebrate milestones in your business?

Our fifth year was our first celebration because they say that if a business lasts five years, only then is it valuable and sustainable. Every year we evaluate the business and work to fix what’s broken. We reflect on and look at the value of what we’ve brought into different spaces, from the design space and anthropological space to the black consciousness space and the space of cultural currency.

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Located in Jo’burg, the studio is a vibrant and inspiring space; the brand’s design blueprint consists of nine colours.

How do you feel about the fact that many people consider your designs to be not only fashion, but art?
This is how I saw the vision initially. When I started, I used to go through the production process by hand, back when one jersey would take a week of crafting. I still return to that when creating once-off pieces and perceive the work as making art.

What does culture mean to you?
For me, culture is a way of being that informs the future. It makes up the fabric of our society and is a way of living that drives our lives.

What’s next for MaXhosa by Laduma?
We’ve been thinking of going into furniture production, something more industrial. We have a few crafters on our radar who we know will be able to interpret our values into furniture very well. Personally, I feel I’ve only achieved about 2% of my personal capacity. I think of myself as an academic and would like to study further and pursue my PhD. There are a lot of design loopholes in South Africa that I’d like to close.

Photographs: Sarah De Pina Production: Sanri Pienaar

Want to learn more about other young creatives? Read At Work With Thabisa Mjo of MashT Design StudioThe Stylish Life of Thabo Makhetha-Kwinana and On Our Radar: Abongile Ntsane from Udaka Tribe next.