Celebrating 13 years, the MaXhosa brand has grown up. Largely informed by Xhosa beadwork patterns and symbols in striking hues, the label is known for its signature graphic knitwear. With Laduma Ngxokolo at the helm, MaXhosa is bold in its approach to showcasing African modernity while embracing heritage and culture.
The latest collection titled A.S.T.O (an acronym for African Space Travellers Organisation) maintains the fashion house’s DNA but reveals a slight departure with futuristic, bold intergalactic graphics, and set against the backdrop of Zeitz MOCAA’s hollowed silos, there is an otherworldly aesthetic to this collection.
“While our largest consumer segment is still 30 — 60 years old, we are definitely looking towards the international trends coming from Gen Z, whether it’s the cut or print,” says Ngxokolo. “The digital age has changed the landscape and we are heavily informed by the sensory developments in the Metaverse and the advancements in AI and what these will mean for the brand. As an organisation we are devoting a lot of research to ensuring that when we do show up in these spaces, we remain at the highest standard of luxury.”
Speaking to the show’s title, “I’ve been fortunate enough to travel Africa and Europe extensively. I lived in London for two years,” he says. “During these travels I learnt to dress for the climate I was in. It taught me how to adapt my design style. I can confidently say that I can design for an East African or European customer. This idea of the travelling African is where the A.S.T.O acronym was birthed.”
Even though the brand is proudly African, Ngxokolo sticks to a specific aesthetic where it pertains to his influence. “We don’t want the brand to become a fruit salad for all African cultures. We retain a strong Nguni aesthetic. While the brand is called MaXhosa, ironically, our second-largest consumer base is in KwaZulu-Natal. I believe that’s because there are elements of Zulu symbolism that seep through into the creative. And if you know anything about Zulu culture, you’ll know that they are strong and proud nation, so to see the brand worn proudly at traditional Zulu events informs us that there is a recognition of Zulu culture in our clothing.”
As a student at the Nelson Mandela University, Ngxokolo had never left his province when he was approached by Ravi Naidoo to showcase his collection in front of over 2,000 people in Cape Town. Ngxokolo’s first stand-alone store was opened at the V&A Waterfront, a huge feat for the groundbreaking designer. That said, this is the first time that the fashion house has held a solo showcase in the Mother City.
MaXhosa recently opened its doors at OR Tambo International Airport, replacing Burberry in the airport’s duty free shopping court.
“Retail has been incredibly difficult as anyone who has tried their hand at the industry will tell you. I’ve had to learn every aspect of the business. That said, I deal 90% with the creative and delegate finance, HR and admin accordingly. Today we employ over 300 people.”
Ngxokolo is a true African industrialist, owning every aspect of the MaXhosa value chain, from manufacturing, retail to marketing. “Everything is produced locally. We use South African mohair and silk et cetera. We are invested in the sustainability of our by-products and the use of chemicals that are environmentally friendly.”