South Africa’s Maxhosa Knitwear For Men.


MaXhosa by Laduma, Africa, fair-trade fashion, fair-trade clothing, fair trade, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, eco-friendly knitwear, sustainable knitwear, Laduma Ngxokolo, South Africa

Laduma Ngxokolo may only be 24 years old but the designer has already drawn critical praise for MaXhosa by Laduma, a burgeoning menswear label that celebrates the Xhosa heritage of South Africa with its vibrant, boldly patterned knits. Crafted in Port Elizabeth from a locally farmed and milled blend of merino wool and kid mohair—all the better to counter the region's soaring unemployment rate—the multihued sweaters and vests feature eye-popping designs based on recurring motifs in Xhosa beadwork, such as the zig-zag, axe, arrow, and diamond.

Ngxokolo, who graduated from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University with a degree in fashion, toyed with the idea of moving to Cape Town in the beginning, but he decided to stay in Port Elizabeth as part of the campus’s newly established creative, innovation, and design hub.

Young Xhosa men undergo an initiation ritual that involves replacing their clothes with new ones, including high-quality knits.

His love affair with knitwear, however, began long before his formal studies. “I was influenced by my late mother, who motivated me to create unique knitwear,” Ngxokolo tells Ecouterre. “Personally, I had always wanted to dress differently while embracing my traditional aesthetics.”
MaXhosa also has a deeper cultural context, one born from patriotic pride. In the Eastern Cape Xhosa communities, young men between 18 and 23 undergo six months of intense training in “circumcision schools” before they’re initiated into manhood. Part of the ritual involves replacing all their clothes—holdovers from their boyhoods—with new ones, including high-quality knits. Because few local sources are available, initiates typically turn to imported brands like Pringle of Scotland and Lyle & Scott. “As a person who has undergone the Xhosa initiation ritual,” Ngxokolo says, “I felt that knitwear brands like these bear no aesthetic resemblance to Xhosa traditions.”


Challenged to create a collection that honored his forebears yet appealed to today’s youth, Ngxokolo decided to merge traditional folk art with contemporary silhouettes. Many of his designs are modeled on beadwork that he viewed at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum during the 2010 World Cup. To create a sense of authenticity, Ngxokolo studiously matched Pantone chips to the bead colors. He then commissioned local craftspeople to dye the yarns to mirror those palettes.

To create a sense of authenticity, Ngxokolo studiously matched Pantone chips to traditional Xhosa bead colors.

Although he has one foot in the past, Ngxokolo also considers the future of his garments. “One of my prime objectives was to utilize high quality material with longevity so that these items could be passed down to the next generation,” he says.
His attention to detail has more than paid off. Besides winning the Marie Claire Prix D’Excellence Award de la Mode for Best Emerging Designer in 2011, Ngxokolo also showed his Spring/Summer 2012 at London Fashion Week. That same year, MaXhosa received nominations for Design Indaba’s Most Beautiful Object In South Africa Award and the Ikusasa Young Designer of the Year Award.
His journey thus far has been invaluable, Ngxokolo explains. “It has helped me to value and preserve my culture for coming generations using textile commodities that are available locally, while thinking in a global perspective,” he says.

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  1. This is AMAZING! I love all the sweaters featured here... I not only like but wear mens clothes so I would definitely rock one of these sweaters :). I just bumped into your blog, keep up the good work!