SA’s top knitwear designer: Weaving change through design and heritage

South Africa’s top knitwear designer, Laduma Ngxokolo, credits his inspiration and success to his late mother, Lindelwa, who not only taught him how to hand-machine knit by the age of 16, but instilled in him the importance of his Xhosa heritage. Lindelwa was patron of the Xhosa heritage, who taught her son the impact that comes from involving your inheritance and community in your business.

For this reason, fellow social entrepreneur and presenter of Chivas, Win the Right Way, Audu Maikori wants to acknowledge and celebrate Laduma as one of Africa’s finest social entrepreneurs.
Chivas, Win the Right Way is a television series on CNBC Africa, featuring Africa’s most inspiring social entrepreneurs. The series celebrates entrepreneurs who run their business based on profit with purpose, and use their shared success to inspire other African entrepreneurs to join a growing movement.

Laduma is a modern gentleman who feels growing up alone played an essential part in his determination to succeed.

The MaXhosa by Laduma vision was to create a modern Xhosa-inspired knitwear collection that would be suitable for amakrwala (Xhosa initiates), who are prescribed by tradition to dress up in new, dignified, formal clothing. Laduma has undergone the ritual himself and feels strongly that fashion is more than just clothes. “It’s a cultural identity, self-expression, and it’s an art form that informs trends.”

MaXhosa by Laduma does have a choice to source from China but chooses not to. “We have sacrificed a certain portion of profit, to make sure we are supporting local employment.” The reward is greater than revenue as this business model enriches people’s lives and allows for local economic growth; from the Angora goat farmers in Port Elizabeth, to the employees at the Newtown Factory.

Sourcing locally is one of the most important factors for MaXhosa by Laduma as it extends beyond creating resident employment, but also embeds the ideology Laduma wants South Africans to embrace. “South African designers and social entrepreneurs need to develop their own voices in order for them to represent African fashion and business in their own style. They should not feel the need to appeal to a certain market in order to sell their range. They have to appeal to themselves and then opportunity will find them.”
Laduma also feels that more private businesses should take on the responsibility of uplifting social entrepreneurs, not necessarily through financial support, but in the form of enterprise development by offering other services such as legal assistance from a law firm.

Laduma truly encapsulates the ‘never-stop-learning’ attitude of a social entrepreneur. His generous spirit is inevitably inspiring and most certainly has him winning the right way. “Working hard is the best recipe, talent is not. With hard work anything can be achieved.” This is evident in the final product range from Maxhosa by Laduma that compromises expectations and surprises with exceptionality through and through.

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