How European catwalks have been awed by expensive African fashion

Laduma Ngxokolo is able to pinpoint the precise time he turned into a man and how that event influenced his own sense of style. He went into the bush for a month in 2004 with a group of young men from his village as part of a custom that the Xhosa ethnic group of South Africa follows to mark the coming-of-age. Following their month-long exile, Ngxokolo and his fellow initiates were expected to re-enter society dressed in new garments. “It was a gentlemanly, British-inspired outfit. Accordingly, a hunter cap or headgear and a jacket would be your usual outfit, Ngxokolo told the BBC.

 

However, Ngxokolo made the decision to create his own unique clothing that was more in line with Xhosa tradition. Among his fellow “amakrwala,” or initiates, he stood out when he came out of childhood wearing “a lot of stripes and an accent color around the neck, calf, and chest.” Having seen firsthand the dearth of upscale apparel businesses with Xhosa influences, Ngxokolo started MaXhosa Africa, a designer label known for its vibrant Xhosa designs and knitwear.

 

Since then, MaXhosa has received support from BeyoncĂ©, been seen on US singer Alicia Keys, been featured in Vogue, and on Sunday, it will debut a new collection at Paris Fashion Week. Furthermore, Ngxokolo is not alone: a number of African luxury designers have made a splash on the international fashion scene in recent years. Thebe Magugu, Lukhanyo Mdingi, and Sindiso Khumalo are the three South Africans who have won the esteemed LVMH Prize for Emerging Talent since 2019. The next year, BeyoncĂ©’s Africa-focused Black Is King movie introduced Western viewers to the top companies on the continent.

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