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Menswear: Knitwear Inspired by Xhosa Culture

Laduma Ngxokolo [South Africa]

Laduma Ngxokolo knitwear

The ‘Colourful World of the Xhosa Tribe’ is a range of locally sourced Merino wool and mohair knitted textiles exploring the cultural heritage of the Xhosa people by recent design graduate Laduma Ngxokolo. Of his choice of material Laduma used mohair for its richness of colour and extra sheen, saying it is a versatile material; sustainable, lightweight, breathable and elastic. While studying at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, Laduma was inspired by the Xhosa initiation ceremonies and sought to create garments that men could wear when attending these traditional ceremonies.

Laduma Ngxokolo - knitwear styles

[Image credit: Laduma Ngxokolo/Design Indaba]

Within South Africa’s eastern cape Xhosa communities initiation ceremonies are held to mark a boy’s transition into manhood. Those going through the initiation process are traditionally referred to as ‘Amakrwala’ and part of the process, requires giving their old clothes away to signal the end of their boyhood. Their parents are then required to buy them a new range of clothing to reflect their new status, this usually includes high quality men’s knitwear. Having been through the initiation process himself, Laduma noticed that most high quality men’s knitwear came from renowned Scottish brands like Pringle and Lyle & Scott and that there were no relevant local knitwear brands.

Laduma Ngxokolo - full knitwear range

iMage credit: Laduma Ngxokolo/DesignBoom]

The designs reinterpret the aesthetics of Xhosa beadwork and in 2010 Laduma’s designs won first place at the Society of Dyers and Colourists annual international design competition held in London. Laduma sources his fibres locally as a means to support the local industry, as interestingly South Africa produces 75% of the world’s mohair but because of a lack of sufficient textile industries to convert the mohair into end products the majority of the fibres are exported. Visitors to the annual Design Indaba Expo, held recently in Cape Town – 25th-27th February 2011 – were able to see Laduma Ngxokolo’s collection on the ‘Emerging Creatives’ pavilion and on the ‘Most Beautiful Object in South Africa’ stand. 

As I write the collection is currently being shown at Milan Fashion Week and I hope that Laduma will realise his dream of setting up his own knitwear production line in Port Elizabeth.

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