In Ngxokolo’s world, the global starts at home. As he prepared to exhibit his Afrofuturistic collection at the home of contemporary African art in Cape Town, the decorated designer embarked on a journey that defines the intersection of art and fashion, echoing a narrative of heritage, innovation, and a bold reimagining of luxury.
Speaking at a press conference held ahead of the show, Founder and Creative Director Laduma Ngxokolo said: “MaXhosa Africa is at once a heritage brand, and a brand that reflects the Zeitgeist in Africa, bringing the stories of the continent to an international community.”
“It reflects our journey as we break out of the continent to find permanent spaces globally,” Ngxokolo said about the collection. “We are in the business of pushing boundaries, while continuing to honour our African heritage and style,” he continued.
“We are part of the group demystifying the aesthetic that African designers cannot compete with the big players in the luxury space.”
One of Maxhosa’s unique strengths is its nuanced references to various African cultures. While deeply rooted in Xhosa traditions, the brand incorporates elements from other African cultures, making it a truly pan-African fashion statement. This inclusive approach broadens the label’s appeal, Durban (a city a large population of AmaZulu calls home) stands as the second-largest consumer of Maxhosa, indicating the brand’s growing influence across different regions and cultures. This underscores the fact that Maxhosa’s vision of bold luxury resonates with diverse communities, while embracing the digital age’s Afrofuturism.
Maxhosa’s journey into the digital realm is a testament to its forward-thinking approach. Through their SS23/24 collection, the brand is investing in digital experiences and the metaverse, allowing customers to one day experience the store from the comfort of their homes. In a world where technology and fashion are increasingly intertwined, Ngxokolo aims to “go beyond international counterparts like Louis Vuitton and create a unique online shopping experience that speaks to the essence of African luxury”.
In a mesmerising display, the fashion house breathed life into a vision of tomorrow, drawing inspiration from African folklore, spirituality, and intertwining it with elements of astrology.
Serving as the cosmic gateway for models descending as futuristic explorers, the museum’s central glass elevators set the stage for the show. The collection introduced several standout pieces poised to become timeless classics for the brand, including panelled knit dresses and patchwork accents on dresses and suits.
Aptly named A.S.T.O. (African Space Travellers Organisation), the collection featured an impressive line-up of 80 unique looks. This range effortlessly merges tradition with innovation, introducing new additions like summer-ready printed t-shirts, a creative use of quilt-like patterns on dresses and suits, and a vibrant mix of colours that subtly clash to create an eye-catching effect.
Swimwear pieces also made a debut, with designs incorporating the luxury fashion house’s signature monogram patterns, and given a new twist with cutouts and coverups.
On African luxury SPACE
The rise of African fashion is not a new phenomenon, and its legacy has been carried forward by designers from Lagos to Nairobi to Johannesburg. In South Africa, the fashion scene has most notably been enlivened by talents including Lukhanyo Mdingi, Thebe Magugu, Sindiso Khumalo and Palesa Mokubung – just to name a few from the guard that has weaved a colourful thread to move the needle in the African luxury space much like Laduma Ngxokolo. One therefore cannot talk about the success of Maxhosa without acknowledging the role played by Merchants on Long. The designer proudly affirms that this retailer has been instrumental in expanding the brand’s reach, not only locally but internationally.
But this celebration of African luxury should be seen within a broader context. As Ngxokolo himself asserts: “The phrase ‘emerging African luxury’ must be a thing of the past.”
The very idea that African luxury should be confined to the periphery of global fashion is outdated. He envisions a world where African luxury redefines its own aesthetics and transcends cultural boundaries, growing beyond the bubble that has restrained it for far too long.
Not so quiet luxury
In an era where the cacophony of social media and the relentless pursuit of visibility often drown out subtlety and refinement, one might wonder why we’re still talking about “quiet luxury” long after noise. After all, shouldn’t luxury straddle the lines of opulence and ostentation? The Gqeberha-born designer has chosen to lean into the latter part on the question of opulence.
Maxhosa challenges the whispers of luxury – for better or for worse. The label’s founder understands quiet luxury to not be about hushed tones but about a particular kind of luxury consumer. He explains how a lot of people who shop designer opt out of hypervisibility. However, Ngxokolo asserts that there is nothing quiet about his luxury, particularly when it’s rooted in authenticity and artistry.
On the intersection of luxury and sustainability:
With the world slowly realising the environmental consequences of fast fashion, Maxhosa’s commitment to eco-friendly practices, whether documented or not, becomes increasingly significant.
Ngxokolo believes that the market is still somewhat “naive” when it comes to understanding the materials used in their clothing. Education and awareness are essential, and Maxhosa is dedicated to bridging this gap and instilling a greater appreciation for the materials that make up their garments.
He explains that a distinguishing feature of Maxhosa is its commitment to using natural materials in its creations. The highly sought-after rugs, which are “weaved in the mountains of Lesotho”, are an excellent example of this dedication to authenticity and a nuanced approach to multicultural representation. Other Maxhosa pieces are constructed with 80% mohair and merino wool from Gqeberha – a nod to the designer’s environmental awareness and his origins.
This emphasis on natural materials is a departure from the conventional notion that luxury should only be associated with products “made in Italy,” he explains. Laduma Ngxokolo’s perspective challenges the status quo, highlighting the fact that labour doesn’t come cheap, and it’s important to consider the ethical and environmental implications of the fashion industry.
Yet, even as the designer endeavours to maintain the integrity of his luxury brand – not compromising his price points – he is aware of the ever-increasing appetite for his creations. He acknowledges that “the supply has to be limited because mass supply would mean there’s no attention to detail in each piece.” This approach comes with the consequences of counterfeits, which, as Ngxokolo points out, are also an economic indicator of the desirability and reach of his brand. This is why the Laduma Ngxokolo believes that every creative in the fashion industry should accumulate business acumen. This holistic approach ensures that the brand remains sustainable and competitive in an ever-evolving market.