PE designer tells of tough road to success

BACK HOME: Fashion designer Laduma Ngxokolo went back to his old school, Lawson Brown in Port Elizabeth, to give a motivational speech. With him is head girl Terry-Anne Lewis. Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN
BACK HOME: Fashion designer Laduma Ngxokolo went back to his old school, Lawson Brown in Port Elizabeth, to give a motivational speech. With him is head girl Terry-Anne Lewis. Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

Former Lawson Brown pupil sets out to inspire, writes Nomazima Nkosi

PORT Elizabeth designer and one of the city’s biggest export successes in recent years, Laduma Ngxokolo, was in the city earlier this week for a two-day visit.

The creator of the global brand Maxhosa by Laduma was the keynote speaker at his former high school, Lawson Brown.

Speaking to pupils and parents at an awards ceremony on Wednesday, Ngxokolo said it did not matter where they came from as “hard work beats talent, where talent is not enough”.

“I was one of those students who didn’t receive awards and my talk was aimed more at inspiring them. Most of those students come from difficult backgrounds, just like me,” Ngxokolo said.

The knitwear designer added that he had lost his mother in Grade 9, prompting him and his siblings to “raise themselves”.

“No one has an excuse for failure, because if I can make it, anyone can,” Ngxokolo said.

This was Ngxokolo’s most commercially successful year since he established his brand in 2011.

He was named one of 21 Icons South Africa, his Maxhosa shawl received the Design Indaba’s Most Beautiful Object in South Africa Award and Beyonce raved about his designs on social media after admiring them at an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum was also where he obtained his master’s in material futures from the University of Arts London.

“This year has seen one of the best commercial successes of my career. I’ve just come from Paris where I had a pop-up show plus a showroom that’s open until November 2 at Merchants Aime Paris, which was part of a viewing of contemporary African fashion and design curated by Hanneli Rupert,” Ngxokolo said.

Ngxokolo, who also designed heritageinspired Chivas Regal packs earlier this year, said the best form of response was sales.

“The Maxhosa shawl did the best from my collection this year. We’ve had lots of sales online, where we’ve even had to restock, and we did well at the pop-up too.”

Speaking about his sister, Tina Ngxokolo, who showed her range at South African Fashion Week in Johannesburg and at the recently launched Mandela Bay Fashion Week, Ngxokola said their passion for clothes came from their late mother who was a knitwear designer in the ’80s.

“Tina and I bounce ideas off each other and we collaborated on the Maxhosa show-stopper dress during our SS17 show earlier this year.”

Apart from speaking to pupils at his alma mater, Ngxokolo is also filming a documentary about his life for a docu-reality series for an SABC 1 programme called My World.

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