A young man from the Eastern Cape is fast making name for himself as an innovative knitwear designer. So much so, that he received a standing ovation at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Johannesburg recently. Not bad for a first appearance!

Laduma Ngxokolo is from Port Elizabeth, and studied textile design and technology at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. His late mother taught him to knit on a hand knitting machine, and so it came naturally to combine his interests in his BTech thesis project on ‘finding innovative designs for Xhosa initiates to wear’.

Using this project, he entered an international competition called ‘The Society of Dyers and Colourists’ in 2010 and won. This gave him the opportunity to speak about his project at the Design Indaba in 2011. The positive press coverage helped establish his knitwear brand MaXhosa by Laduma in February 2011.

Asked about his inspiration for the range, he says that he felt the outfits worn at a traditional Xhosa initiation were too Westernised, and “and even though we are all living in a modern time, I felt that there should still be an element that resembles the Xhosa culture. “

He then studied the patterns, motifs, colours and symbols of traditional beadwork at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum. Incorporating these into his designs was for him a way to help preserve his heritage for the next generation.

Laduma uses mohair and wool from the Port Elizabeth area, but production has been moved to Cape Town, where he had met Jacques Burthy from Vuya Fashions, who shared his vision, and had the capability to handle the capacity he required.

Most of his sales have been from the shop Merchants on Long on Long Street in Cape Town, but he has launched his own online store. His sister Tina, also a fashion designer, is helping him, and as Laduma seeks to grow his local market he is already attracting attention on the international fashion scene.

Here are some more of his beautiful designs. All images are by SDR Photo.