MaXhosa designer earns MEC’s Special Award

Laduma Ngxokolo plans to use prize in project to assist other industry hopefuls


Port Elizabeth fashion designer Laduma Ngxokolo’s internationally acclaimed brand earned him recognition at the provincial leg of the Lilizela Tourism Awards in East London on Friday.
The MaXhosa By Laduma knitwear designer received the MEC’s Special Award from Eastern Cape economic development, environmental affairs & tourism MEC Oscar Mabuyane for representing the province.
“It’s a very exciting feeling because, although I get a lot of awards from outside SA, being acknowledged by your government and tourism department from your home is a huge endorsement,” Ngxokolo said.
The accolade is accompanied by a R300,000 cash prize, which Ngxokolo said would be used for his new project, the Eastern Cape Fashion Council, which he had been planning with partner Nwabisa Bunde for four months.
“When we sat and thought of ways that we can bring an initiative that can add value to the community, we figured that PE has a lot of designers who don’t have anywhere to go for assistance,” Ngxokolo said.
He said the nonprofit organisation would assist at least 200 Eastern Cape emerging designers with resources ranging from access to mentorship to workshops, equipment and office space.
It will take offices at the Athenaeum in Central from October and welcomes applications from aspiring designers in the province.
“The main aim of the council is to hold workshops where we teach designers about finance, production, and how to design for local, national and international markets, because what you love as a designer or what you aspire to be might not be exactly what [certain] people are looking for,” he said.
The council is set to provide solutions uniquely suited for challenges faced by each designer and not “one-size-fitsall” solutions, Ngxokolo said.
There is, therefore, no specific timeframe set for the designers to be mentored and assisted.
The designers will be assisted by experienced entrepreneurs and professionals from the Eastern Cape who will share their expertise.
While the council’s headquarters will be in Port Elizabeth, Bunde said they would work with various municipalities to ensure the inclusion of fashion designers from the rural areas.
“We’ll be holding the workshops in rural municipalities too and we have already been communicating with certain stakeholders within those municipalities.
“We are open to collaborating with individuals who can assist,” Bunde said.
Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism CEO Mandlakazi Skefile is on board as a consultant in stakeholder relations.
“What rural municipalities usually complain about is how their crafters always have the same designs to showcase at trade shows,” Ngxokolo said.
“You’ll find that crafts made in the Eastern Cape are the same as what you’ll find in Durban and other places, so we have approached such municipalities to say we have this project to assist crafters in advancing their aesthetics and to be unique.”
He said the overall objective of the council was to uplift the Eastern Cape amid the high crime rate, low matric pass rate and rising unemployment.
In response to complaints about Ngxokolo not opening a branch of his fashion retailer in his hometown, the designer said the demand for his work in Port Elizabeth had not grown enough for him to open one in the city but he would bring a pop-up store by mid2019.
“The numbers are not enough yet but we have increased our accessory portfolio and added beanies, shorts and more socks as they are perfectly suitable for our PE clients who are unable to afford our premium rates.
“We’ll see how the pop-up store performs next year.”
Ngxokolo pays monthly visits to Port Elizabeth to support the city’s growing fashion industry.
Aspiring designers can email info@ecfdc.org.za for more information.

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