The fashion designer taking his Xhosa heritage global

Laduma Ngxokolo is taking his Xhosa traditions and creating an international business

It is not every day that a designer showcasing at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Johannesburg for the very first time gets a standing ovation.

But that is exactly what happened to Laduma Ngxokolo, a young man from the Xhosa ethnic group, whose colourful range of knitwear had lit up the catwalk.

Laduma is the founder and creator of MaXhosa by Laduma.

Born in 1986, he was taught by his mother how to use a knitting machine.

The design range showcased in Johannesburg was conceptualised as a project titled The Colourful World of the Xhosa Culture while Ladume was studying textile design and technology at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.

Models wearing Laduma Ngxokolo designs Laduma's clothes are based on traditional Xhosa designs

In 2010 his project won the South African Society of Dyers and Colourists' design competition, earning him a trip to London where he was awarded first prize in an international competition.

The success of the project led to the creation of MaXhosa. "The initial aim behind my project was to find design solutions for Xhosa initiates," says Laduma.

Africa's new entrepreneur branding

The BBC's business teams across Africa meet the continent's entrepreneurs who are starting up new enterprises and seeking to create big opportunities.

"I decided to develop a Xhosa-inspired collection of knitwear using traditional Xhosa beadwork, colours and motifs.

"I decided to call the name of my brand MaXhosa by Laduma because I wanted to showcase the astonishing beauty of the Xhosa people and translate it in a modern way that actually appeals to the current youth that is influenced by international trends."

His success turns decades of what some see as cultural imperialism on its head.

"European designers like Missoni and Jean-Paul Gaultier have often taken inspiration from African tribes and sold it around the world," says Siphiwe Mpye, a journalist and former assistant editor of GQ, South Africa who hails from the same area as Laduma.

Now Mr Mpye says the attitude of African designers is: "If we don't do it someone is going to come and appropriate it and make loads of money from it, so we might as well do it ourselves and be authentic about it and treat it with the integrity it deserves."

Woman steaming fabric Production is outsourced to another company but the designer keeps his eye on the work

After seeing the growth and potential of his business, Laduma decided to relocate from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, where he found a knitwear producer that could handle the capacity he needed.

"It was a good market to actually establish my brand because there was already a demand in the city and I could get more publicity in Cape Town as well," he says.

In Cape Town, Laduma met Jacques Burthy from Vuya Fashions who bought into his vision for MaXhosa and began producing garments for him from his factory.

Now Laduma spends most of his time at the factory checking on production and creating new designs.

Man taking fabric from a machine The garments are made using traditional materials and with modern machinery

MaXhosa's garments are made in South Africa and use local raw materials such as mohair that he sources from his hometown in Port Elizabeth.

He has already branched out into other areas like carpets and cushions, by working with new partners.

As his business expands, Laduma admits there is a need to get more investment but this is something he is prepared to set aside for now as he fears it may compromise the brand he is still building.

One such decision was to turn down an offer from a large South African retailer to form a partnership with him to sell his garments.

"I make 100% sure that whichever decision I make won't actually affect the work that I have already done because it was not easy to get here and a wrong decision could take us 10 steps back. I'm trying to take cautious steps as I go forward," he says.

Woman working on fabric Production is in Cape Town but items are sold across South Africa and Europe

While most of his sales have been from the shop Merchants on Long on Long Street in Cape Town, Laduma has launched his own online store to increase sales. But he is quick to admit that it is not as easy as he thought it would be.

"It is sort of a physical store that is up in the air. You have to control it, so I had to get in a few more people to be involved to actually help me manage," he says.

"It's a great platform for us because we get to connect directly with our customers and service them the way that we feel is best for us."

One of those helping him in his business is his sister Tina, who is also a fashion designer.

As Laduma seeks to grow his local market he is already attracting attention on the international fashion scene.

He has showcased his work in Berlin, London, New York and Paris, and in May, he was one of the speakers at an international conference in Amsterdam, called What Design Can Do, which looks at the power of design as an agent for social renewal.

But whatever success he garners around the world, Laduma will always remain true to his roots.

He says his ultimate goal is to establish MaXhosa by Laduma as an international premium brand - proudly made in South Africa.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories


Business Live

    09:37: Construction data

    The purchasing managers' index for the construction sector rose 1 point to 60.1 in February, defying expectations for a fall as growth picked up across the housing, commercial and civil engineering sectors. Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit, says some construction companies think the general election outcome could prove a "temporary bump in the road" for new work.

    09:21: Paddy Power results
    World Cup

    It's a lucky day for Paddy Power investors after the company said it will return €392m cash to shareholders after failing to find any potential bid targets. Operating profit jumped by a better than expected 19% to €163.8m for 2014, helped by last summer's World Cup, which was won by Germany.

    Barclays results Via Email Chirantan Barua Bernstein Research

    Dividends were held flat for the fourth quarter at 3.5p as compared to last year and came in lower than consensus at 3.7p. Non-progressive nature will be taken as marginally negative and also highlights that the bank's key focus continues to be capital build.

    08:53: Business Matters World Service
    Royal Enfield

    Can India's cities become cleaner and greener? Business Matters on the World Service is live from Chennai all week. In the first programme Fergus Nicoll asks whether the infrastructure is fit for purpose - and visits an Indian success story with its roots in Britain: Royal Enfield motorcycles. Listen here.

    08:41: Barclays
    Barclays shares

    Shares in Barclays are down 2.3%, or 6.15p, at 256.6p in morning trading in London. The stock has not moved much over the past 12 months given that it's just 8.7p higher than the price on March 4 last year.

    08:27: Ford BBC Radio 4
    Ford Mustang

    Jim Farley, Ford's European president, tells presenter Simon Jack on Today that he hopes Britain does not leave the European Union. One in three engines made by the company comes from the UK, which he described as the "centrepiece" of its global enterprise. Asked about the Russian market, Farley said Ford believed in it in the long term but admitted that some short-term adjustments were required because of the volatile economy.

    08:14: Taylor Wimpey results

    If you're a house builder and you're not making piles of money, then something is very wrong. Fortunately for Taylor Wimpey that is not the case. Annual pre-tax profits are up two thirds to £450m before one-off deductions as 12,454 homes were completed across the UK - 758 more than in 2013 - with an 11.5% rise in average selling price to £213,000.

    07:56: Barclays results

    While Mr Jenkins takes his first annual bonus with Barclays, the overall 2014 bonus pool for the bank is down £520m to £1.86bn. Most of the total - £1.05bn - goes to the investment bank. Its capital ratio, a measure of strength against unexpected losses, is up to 10.3% from 9.1%.

    07:44: Barclays results BBC Radio 4

    Barclays chief Antony Jenkins is on Today. The bank is the healthiest it has been since the financial crisis, he says. Changing culture at the bank takes a long time, Mr Jenkins adds, but the "vast majority" of his 130,000 bankers "want to do the right thing". He is taking a bonus of £1.1m after the "huge amount of progress" the bank has made. Asked about the topic du jour, Mr Jenkins says he pays all his tax in the UK and as a US green card holder.

    07:37: Barclays results

    Barclays wrote down the value of its education, social housing and local authority loan portfolio by £935m. Last year the portfolio was valued at just less than £16bn, but at that time, the lender reclassified the loans as "level 3" assets. That's City-speak for loans you cannot value easily because they don't sell very often.

    07:24: Direct Line results
    Direct Line website

    It's been a good 2014 for Direct Line, with pre-tax profits up 12% to £456.8m and a windfall of £430m from the sale of its international business. Shareholders will pocket total dividends of 27.2p per share, up from 20.6p in 2013. Harvey Keitel probably pocked a pretty penny too for featuring in its TV ads.

    07:16: Barclays results

    Antony Jenkins will take his first bonus as chief executive of the lender: £1.1m. The bank also said it would increase its provision for payment protection insurance (PPI) by £200m for the last three months of 2014, taking the year's total to £1.1bn. Excluding these provisions and other things the bank considers one-offs, pre-tax profit rose 12% to £5.5bn. But including the nasties, the figure sank 21% to £2.26bn.

    07:03: Barclays results

    Barclays have posted their 2014 results. They have set aside an extra £750m after those investigations for foreign exchange manipulation, taking the pot to £1.25bn.

    06:53: Barclays BBC Radio 4

    Chris Wheeler, of Atlantic Equities, has also popped up on Today. He tells Simon Jack that Barclays is doing only "averagely well ... it's still work in progress". He expects pre-tax profits to be about £5.2bn when the bank reports its annual results at 7am.

    06:35: Markets performance Radio 5 live

    Justin Urquhart-Stewart of 7 Investments is still on 5 live. "We are dealing with companies that make a profit and make things," he says of the Nasdaq's rally. The dotcom boom was based on companies that failed to make money, although "we have to be wary" because markets in 2015 are gorged on cheap money and cheap debt.

    06:23: Barclays results Radio 5 live

    Chris Wheeler of Atlantic Equities is talking about Barclays. £5.2bn pretax profits are on the cards for the bank in its annual results, he estimates - a tad ahead of last year's result. However, "it's the return on equity that counts", he says. The bank is struggling to make 10%, which for a high-risk endeavour like banking is not where you want that figure, Wheeler adds. Results come at 07:00.

    06:11: Markets performance Radio 5 live

    Justin Urquhart-Stewart of 7 Investments is on 5 live as the markets guest. "You have a global economy in pretty good shape and in the eurozone some better figures," he says, following soaring US markets. The FTSE 100 may grow further if there's better sentiment from China, he adds.

    06:02: Mobile World Congress Radio 5 live

    Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent, is in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. Sony chief executive Kazuo Hirai is "making some tough decisions" and focusing Sony on things like films and games and camera technology: the areas that make money, he tells 5 live. Like many companies, it's finding mobile phones a tricky market.

    06:00: Chris Johnston Business reporter

    Get in touch via email or on twitter @BBCBusiness

    06:00: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Good morning! US stocks hit record levels, with both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 closing at all-time highs and the Nasdaq breaking the 5,000 barrier for the first time in 15 years. Is that going to last? Stay tuned for more.



  • Mukesh SinghNo remorse

    Delhi bus rapist says victim shouldn't have fought back

  • Aimen DeanI spied

    The founder member of al-Qaeda who worked for MI6

  • Man in pollution mask in BeijingSmog storm

    Chinese climate film inspired by baby's tumour goes viral

  • Before and after shotsPerfect body

    Just how reliable are 'before and after' photos?

From BBC Capital


  • 3D model of Christ the Redeemer statueClick Watch

    Using drones to 3D map the famous Brazilian landmark Christ the Redeemer

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.